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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nalchik Plane Theory Investigated

Itar-TassPresident Vladimir Putin attending a funeral Sunday in Nalchik for former Kabardino-Balkaria President Valery Kokov.
NALCHIK -- Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel said Friday that his office was investigating allegations that militants who raided Nalchik earlier this month might have planned to use civilian planes in terrorist attacks.

Shepel said investigators were probing the motives behind militants' plans to seize an airport in Nalchik and whether they had planned to use planes located there for terror attacks, according to a statement released by his office.

At least 139 people died in the assault on Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, including 94 accused attackers, according to official tallies.

Shepel's statement followed official statements that federal authorities had received a tip-off on the militants' plan to seize the airport at Nalchik. Some media speculated that the militants might have intended to use aircraft for suicide attacks. Officials said they had tightened security at the airport and other facilities prior to the raid, which helped quickly defeat the attackers.

Meanwhile, dozens of relatives of men killed during the attacks protested outside Nalchik's only working mosque Friday, demanding officials turn over bodies for proper burial.

Authorities have refused, saying that the law forbids turning over the bodies of terrorists.

Larisa Dorogova, a defense lawyer, said authorities were misinterpreting the law by calling the attackers terrorists, since the assault targeted law enforcement officials and not civilians.

"These bodies will rot sooner than the investigation is finished," said Yelena Dygova, who said she found the body of her 25-year-old nephew, Kazbulat, only on the fourth time she was allowed to search containers where more than 130 bodies lay.

She said Kazbulat left his job with the police after six months, disgusted by brutality and torture. She said she suspected Kazbulat was killed not in the gunbattle that raged for more than a day in Nalchik, but through police torture.

Khalimat, a young nurse who gave only her first name, said she found her husband in a refrigerated container 10 days after the attack. She said that it appeared her husband had died from blunt trauma and organ failure, not gunshot wounds. She claimed officials had drawn up a hit list of people whose bodies were to be included in the pile of bodies at the city morgue.

Valery Kokov, Kabardino-Balkaria's 64-year-old former president, died of complications from cancer, a government spokeswoman said Saturday.

Kokov died overnight in a Moscow hospital, said Jamila Khagharova, a spokeswoman for the region's current president.

Kokov, who spent nearly 15 years at the head of the republic, was considered by the Kremlin to be key to stability in the volatile region. Analysts said Kokov's resignation in September worried the Kremlin, which feared that regional clans and endemic corruption would further spiral out of control.

President Vladimir Putin attended Kokov's funeral in Nalchik on Sunday.