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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Maskhadov House Is Demolished

APA view on Monday of the house in the Chechen village Tolstoy-Yurt where authorities say Aslan Maskhadov died.
ROSTOV-ON-DON -- Authorities have blown up the house where rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov was killed last week in a special operation, witnesses and officials said Monday.

It was unclear whether the explosion Sunday was meant as punishment for the family that allegedly gave him shelter, a safety precaution or an attempt to cover up sensitive evidence.

Colonel-General Arkady Yedelev, chief of the federal headquarters for the campaign in Chechnya, said the authorities had demolished the house out of fear it could contain booby traps. He said demolition experts had discovered and detonated a box found in the basement of the house in the Chechen village of Tolstoy-Yurt that contained documents and was ridden with explosives. "The team of investigators decided to blow up the entire house to avoid such surprises in the future," Yedelev said.

Authorities said last Tuesday that Maskhadov was killed during an operation by federal forces earlier that day in a bunker under the house, though accounts of how he died have varied.

A woman who said she and her family had lived in the house for 27 years denied last week that Maskhadov had been there. She said she suspected his body was brought there Tuesday.

Anna Politkovskaya, the Novaya Gazeta reporter who covers Chechnya, said that the destruction of the house was apparently intended to destroy any evidence that could cast doubt on official accounts of Maskhadov's killing. "There is nothing left now to question the official version of events," she said.

Meanwhile, human rights activists joined Maskhadov's family in calling on authorities to return his body for burial.

"Refusing to hand over the body to the relatives of the deceased is a shame," representatives of three rights groups wrote in a statement cited by Interfax. They also criticized security services for killing the rebel instead of capturing him.

"Considering the technical equipment special forces have, Maskhadov could have been captured alive and could have stood trial," they said.