'Chechens bribed their way onto death flights'

The two Chechen women suspected of blowing up two Russian airliners last month were briefly detained by airport policemen before the flights, but then released,

The two Chechen women suspected of blowing up two Russian airliners last month were briefly detained by airport policemen before the flights, but then released,

Both women subsequently paid bribes to get on the planes, which crashed almost simultaneously on the night of August 24 after taking off from Moscow’s Domodyedovo airport, Russia’s Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said.

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 and 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.

The women arrived at the airport the evening of August 24, accompanied by two other Chechens, Ustinov said.

“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.

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 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 alleged 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.

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