Suspect in deadly 1999 bombing of apartment building brought to Russia after arrest

Saturday, November 13th 2004, 10:31 am
By: News On 6

MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP) _ A suspect in a 1999 apartment-building bombing that killed 64 people and helped trigger Moscow's renewed military campaign in Chechnya was brought to Russia on Saturday after being arrested in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, authorities said.

Magomed Salikhov is suspected of helping organize the attack in the Dagestani city of Buinaksk _ one of four apartment-house blasts that Russian authorities cited as a reason to renew their military campaign in Chechnya.

Salikhov was detained in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, on Friday, Dagestani police spokeswoman Anzhela Martirosova said. NTV television showed Salikhov being led through a building in handcuffs. A date for his trial had not been set.

Two men _ Alisultan Salikhov, who state-run Rossiya television said was Magomed Salikhov's brother, and Isa Zainutdinov _ were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 after being convicted of organizing the attack. Prosecutors said they were promised $30,000 for the job from Omar Ibn al-Khattab, a Saudi-born militant who led rebel fighters in Chechnya, which neighbors Dagestan. Al-Khattab died in 2002.

The Sept. 4, 1999, bombing, which destroyed a building housing Russian military officers and their families, was the first of four apartment-building blasts that month. The Kremlin blamed Chechnya-based militants for the attacks, which killed about 300 people, and sent troops back into Chechnya later that month, starting the second of two wars there in a decade.

Salikhov, a native of Dagestan, is suspected of other serious crimes besides the Buinaksk bombing, Martirosova said.

Fighting persists in Chechnya, which is now run by a pro-Moscow government. On Saturday, the Kremlin press service said President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree awarding Chechen President Alu Alkhanov _ formerly the region's top police official _ with an Order of Courage medal for displaying ``courage, bravery and selflessness'' in the line of duty.

Alkhanov was elected in what critics said was a rigged Aug. 29 vote to replace the previous Chechen president, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in a bomb blast in May.