Russia's security services paid a $10m (£5.2m) bounty for information that led to the killing of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, officials confirmed today.
Maskhadov was killed last week in a special operation in the village of Tolstoy-Yurt, in northern Chechnya, after troops found his bunker. The government blamed Maskhadov for a number to terrorist attacks including the Beslan school siege last September in which 330 hostages, many of them children, died.
The security service, known as the FSB, announced last year that it would pay the reward for tip-offs on the top rebel leader's whereabouts.
The FSB, the successor to the KGB, said in a statement today that it would be prepared to help the informants to move to another region of Russia or to a Muslim country. It did not say how many people would split the reward.
"The Russian Federal Security Service confirms its preparedness to guarantee personal security and payment of an appropriate monetary award to citizens providing trustworthy information on the whereabouts of the terrorist leaders," the statement said.
It confirmed it would pay the same amount for information on another rebel, Shamil Basayev, who is also linked to the Beslan attack.
Russia's security services have struggled to penetrate the tightly-knit clan society of Chechnya, and the killing of Maskhadov, one of Russia's most-wanted men, was hailed as a major victory.
But Russian media have begun questioning the official version of events after the security services blew up the house yesterday in which he was supposedly found.
Officials said the building was destroyed because of fears it had been booby-trapped, but some human rights activists and critics have complained that troops destroyed all the evidence in the case.
The popular daily, Moskovsky Komsomolets, reported today that forces could have captured, interrogated and killed Maskhadov elsewhere before bringing his body to Tolstoy-Yurt.
It said it was highly unlikely that Maskhadov could have used the primitive basement for shelter.
Yakha Yusupova, who lived in the house with her family, denied the rebel leader had been there and said she suspected Russian forces may have brought him to the site.
Several prominent Russian rights activists criticised the security services yesterday for killing rather than capturing Maskhadov.