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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jet Bombers Remain at Large a Year On

APA view of the wreckage of a Tu-154 passenger jet scattered across a field in the Rostov region on Aug. 25, 2004.
A year after Chechen terrorists brought down two passenger jets, killing all 90 people on board, investigators have yet to identify the suicide bombers or capture those who masterminded the attacks.

Relatives attended memorial services Wednesday at the sites where the planes crashed in the Tula and Rostov regions as well as at a Volgograd cemetery where eight people are buried.

Investigators believe the planes were brought down by two female bombers who blew themselves up less than a minute apart on the night of Aug. 23, 2004. Both planes departed from Domodedovo Airport, with one heading for Volgograd and the other for Sochi.

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but he remains at large despite a $10 million reward offered by the government last fall.

Basayev said in September that the plane attacks, a suicide bombing outside a Moscow metro station a week later and the Beslan school seizure in September were in response to the Chechen presidential election on Aug. 29 that Kremlin-backed candidate Alu Alkhanov won. Basayev said that the plane bombings cost $4,000.

In June, however, Basayev told Radio Liberty reporter Andrei Babitsky that the planes had been downed by Russian missiles after the women attempted to hijack them and demand the withdrawal of federal troops from Chechnya.

Shortly after the attacks, Transportation Minister Igor Levitin said the pilots had not issued a hijacking alert and that there had been no indication of a hijacking on the planes' voice recorders.

The Prosecutor General's Office, which is overseeing the investigation, declined to comment Wednesday.

Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov has said the bombers carried passports issued to Chechen residents Amnat Nagayeva and Satsita Dzhebrikhanova. But investigators have yet to release DNA test results confirming that their bodies were among the remains.

Three people have been jailed in connection with the attacks, including Mikhail Artamonov, a police captain at Domodedovo who received a seven-year prison sentence for not searching Nagayeva and Dzhebrikhanova during a document check at the airport. Artamonov testified in court that the women were not registered in police databases as criminals or terrorists and that he had no obligation to search all Chechens stopped for checks.

"This convicted policeman is just a scapegoat. He was prosecuted to shift the blame," Natalya Bobrovskikh, who lost her daughter Oksana on one of the planes, said in comments published Wednesday in Izvestia. "He may be guilty, but the main guilt is with those in charge of airline security."

Armen Arutyunyan, a ticket scalper who helped the Chechen women secure tickets, and Nikolai Korenkov, a flight attendant who helped one woman board a plane after check-in had ended, have been sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison each.

The government paid a compensation of 100,000 rubles ($3,400) for each victim. Several relatives took the government to court and won a monthly pension of 450 rubles ($16) for one parent per victim and a monthly allowance of 900 rubles for one child per victim, Izvestia reported, citing Natalya Ryzhkova, a Volgograd lawyer who worked on behalf of the families.