Terrorists bribed way on doomed flights

THE two Chechen women suspected of blowing up two Russian airliners last month were briefly detained by airport policemen, but paid bribes to get on to the flights.

The planes crashed almost simultaneously on the night of August 24 after taking off from Moscow’s Domodyedovo airport.

Russia’s Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said yesterday the women arrived at the airport the evening of August 24, accompanied by two other Chechens.

“Police officers spotted them, confiscated their passports and handed them over to a police captain responsible for anti-terrorism operations to examine their belongings.

“The captain let them go without any check and they started to try to obtain tickets in the same buildings.”

It is not unusual for Chechens to be stopped by police in Moscow for questioning.

The commission investigating last month’s crashes concluded that explosions in the passenger cabins caused the tragedies.

The crashes were the first in a series of recent attacks that have killed more than 430 people, all blamed on Chechen separatists.

Suspicion in the plane attacks has fallen on two Chechen women - one apparently on each plane according to passenger lists.

One of the women purchased a plane ticket under the name Dzhebirkhanova scheduled for the next day, Ustinov said.

But with the help of an intermediary at the airport, she bribed an employee of Sibir airlines with 1,000 roubles (€28) and he let her board the earlier TU-154 flight two minutes before check-in was over, Ustinov said.

The intermediary, whom Ustinov identified only as Arutyunov, also helped the other suicide bomber board the TU-134 plane after she paid a bribe, Ustinov said.

Ustinov said both Arutyunov and the airline employee had been arrested.

Meanwhile, children returned to schools in Beslan yesterday, two weeks after armed militants seized more than 1,200 hostages at a school in a raid that shocked the world.

Boys in dark suits and girls in lacy white bows began the day with a minute of silence to remember the 338 people - nearly half of them children - killed in the September 1-3 siege in the quiet, industrial town.

Students from School No. 1, which was almost completely destroyed, were exempt from returning to class, and many of the survivors and their families have been granted stays at sanatoriums in the Black Sea resort of Sochi and other resorts for treatment.

But classes in Beslan’s seven other schools resumed yesterday - after a day’s postponement to give the military and police more time to search buildings for weapons and explosives.

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