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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Basayev Says He Was Behind 2 Bombings

Chechen guerrilla commander Shamil Basayev said on a rebel web site that he masterminded two deadly suicide attacks that separatists had earlier condemned.

Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev on Friday blamed Basayev for the attacks that killed 46 people on a train in the Stavropol region and six outside the National Hotel in Moscow.

But Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Chechnya, said Wednesday that authorities had no firm proof Basayev was behind the attacks.

"We do not have 100 percent proof of this information, but it is one of the main lines of the inquiry," he told a news conference.

But Basayev said in a statement posted late Tuesday on the Kavkaz Center web site: "Those were pre-planned combat operations to oppose the Russian aggression, carried out by our brigade's fighters."

On Dec. 5, two days before the State Duma elections, a bomb ripped through a packed commuter train near the town of Yessentuki, killing 46 passengers, mostly students on their way to class.

Two days after Putin's allies scored a big election win, a female suicide bomber killed herself and five others outside the National Hotel.

Russian officials pointed a finger at Chechen separatists. But rebels denied responsibility and condemned "all terror acts and acts of violence ... directed against the civilian population" in a statement posted on the same web site.

Basayev said in his message that he saw any Russian national as a legitimate target and vowed to pursue such attacks.

"We reject all accusations regarding students who died as a result of our action. Immeasurably more young people die here, in our motherland, and the vast majority are absolutely innocent," Basayev said.

Basayev won prominence in Chechnya by staging surprise attacks on federal troops during Moscow's 1994-96 military campaign. He was then briefly prime minister during Chechnya's three years of de facto independence.

After Putin sent troops back into Chechnya in 1999, Basayev retreated to the mountains, along with elected Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

Maskhadov, seen as a moderate, distanced himself from Basayev after Chechen separatists seized the Dubrovka theater in Moscow last year and 129 people died when security forces used a noxious gas in an attempt to rescue hundreds of hostages.

Russian officials say Basayev's guerrillas are the best-trained and organized in Chechnya and put up most of the fight against Moscow's forces, estimated to number 60,000.