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Foreign involvement of siege suspected { November 28 2004 }

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Foreign involvement in siege suspected
November 28, 2004 - 5:39AM

The head of a parliamentary commission investigating the September hostage seizure at a school in southern Russia said there was evidence pointing to involvement by a foreign intelligence agency, the Interfax news agency reported.

The statement was the latest of several in which Russian officials and politicians have alleged that foreigners were involved in the September 1-3 attack on a school in the southern town of Beslan, which ended in bloody chaos and left more than 330 people dead, many of them children.

"For the moment, the evidence that we have of this involvement is indirect, so I consider it premature to name exactly which special service it is," Interfax quoted commission head Alexander Torshin as saying.

Russians refer to intelligence and security agencies as special services.

"When we gather enough convincing evidence, we won't hide it," Torshin, deputy speaker of the Federation Council, Russia's upper parliament house, said.

Russian officials initially said the attackers killed at the school included nine or 10 Arabs, but they never provided any proof of that. Shamil Basayev, a Chechen warlord who claimed responsibility for the raid, said his militants who seized the school included two Arabs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials have cast the hostage seizure as part of a war against Russia by international terrorists - not a product of the Kremlin's military campaign in Chechnya, where officials said several of the attackers were from.

Many Russian officials have accused foreign countries, particularly in the West, of double standards on terrorism.

In a televised address after the attack, Putin suggested that some Cold War throwbacks in the West who are bent on weakening Russia aid terrorists.

2004 AP

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