Arab leaders Friday night strongly condemned the seizure of the Russian school by Arab and Chechen fighters, who were described as "criminals, not Muslims." Over 200 people killed during the rescue operation.
Heads of state from Egypt, Lebanon and Kuwait voiced sympathy to Russian officials and the families of people caught up in the hostage drama.
"Among the 20 terrorists killed, there are 10 citizens of the Arab world," Valery Andreyev, Russia's top regional security official, said on national television.
Meanwhile, Itar-Tass news agency quoted sources in the regional security service as saying that the mass hostage-taking at the school was led by a senior Chechen commander and possibly financed by Al Qaeda.
The sources said that according to early information, Chechen commander Magomet Yevloyev led the seizure of hundreds of children and adults in the school in the province of North Ossetia.
They said the operation had been planned by Shamil Basayev, Russia's most wanted Chechen rebel, who has been behind several major attacks outside Chechnya.
"Apart from that, there is information that the hostage seizure was financed by one of the ideologists of Wahhabism, Abu Omar As-Seyf, who is Al Qaeda's representative in Chechnya," one source said.
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )