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    RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL ASSURES THOSE GUILTY OF BESLAN TRAGEDY WILL BE PUNISHED

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    MOSCOW, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov has pledged that all those guilty of the Beslan tragedy will be punished.

    "The team of investigators is thoroughly studying the whole picture of the terrorist act in Beslan, i.e. identifies the terrorists, determines where they had come from, how they had managed to cross the border, whether they had had accomplices and who promoted the atrocious act through their negligence," Mr Ustinov said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, due to be published on Thursday.

    Investigators are also examining the place in the forest where the hostage-takers had gathered. They are finding out why checkpoints were absent from the roads and are looking into the legitimacy of actions taken, for example, by North Ossetian Interior Minister, his deputy and other officials to ensure the safety of the republic's borders.

    "If someone is found guilty, appropriate measures will ensue," said Mr Ustinov.

    Mr Ustinov recalled that the inquiry into the Beslan terrorist act was being led by Igor Tkachev, chief of investigation at the North Caucasus department of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office.

    Investigators have found out that 1,156 people were taken hostage. However, this is not the final figure as 242 bodies have been identified, while 84 bodies have not been identified. Besides, there are unidentified 88 fragments of human bodies, and the search for the children who have not been found in hospitals or among the dead is going on. The death toll is going up every day, according to Mr Ustinov.

    When asked why law enforcers had reported on only 354 hostages after the Beslan school had been seized, Mr Ustinov said - "This figure was given the next morning after the seizure. Nobody knew what was really going on. The hostage crisis headquarters was receiving relatives all night long writing down the names of those missing. That was precisely the number of appeals from relatives. However, the picture began changing the next day."

    Mr Ustinov confirmed that 32 terrorists had been involved in the school seizure. The detained Kulayev pointed to the same figure. 338 of those questioned either confirmed the figure or said there had been no more than that. This seems to be true as investigators found 30 dead terrorists, one was arrested and the remains of the other were found. "I do not think any of them could escape. This was impossible. They could have escaped from OMON police or commandos, but they could not have escaped from locals," said the prosecutor general.

    "The atmosphere was very strenuous and even some of the Ossetians reportedly shaved off their beards /not to be mixed up with the terrorists/. Besides the town was heavily cordoned off," said Mr Ustinov.

    Fourteen terrorists have been identified as of today, including their leader nicknamed "colonel," according to Mr Ustinov. However, their personalities have to be confirmed during investigation. "Therefore, prosecutors are saying 'their personalities are being identified,'" added Mr Ustinov.

    Mr Ustinov also reported that the weapons seized from terrorists included 7 Kalashnikov sub-machine guns and 3 pistols stolen by them during the attack on Ingushetia on June 22 this year. "This shows that bandits do not care much whom to kill. Ingushes, Ossetians, Russians, Christians or Muslims are all alike to them. Terrorists have no ethnic origin, no religion or homeland," Mr Ustinov said emphatically.

    "There is a whole range of causes of terrorism which are very complex. Motives should be sought in the political, economic and moral domains. Extremism, radical nationalism, workforce's illegal migration to Russia and many other things make the nutrient solution of terrorism," said the prosecutor general.

    "I believe terrorism will play out when stability has been brought about in the country. However, we cannot afford to wait doing nothing. Therefore, the premierobjective facing all of us, above all law enforcers, is to prevent and pre-empt terrorism in whatever form," said Mr Ustinov in conclusion.

    Mr Ustinov also said that Sergei Fridinsky, ex-Deputy Prosecutor General for the Southern Federal District, had been promoted to the central board of the Prosecutor General's Office.

    Mr Fridinsky is on holiday now and will take office as a Prosecutor General later.

    Vladimir Kolesnikov, who is in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia's capital now, will replace Mr Fridinsky at his post for the time being.

    Mr Ustinov did not name Mr Fridinsky's successor. "We have already nominated the candidate. This is an appropriate candidate," said Mr Ustinov.

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