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Man cleared of blast that led to Chechan war

/ Source: The Associated Press

A jury in southern Russia acquitted a man being retried for an apartment building blast in 1999 that killed 64 people and led to Moscow’s renewed military campaign in Chechnya, a court spokesman said Saturday.

Magomed Salikhov was found innocent of bombing charges Friday in Dagestan’s highest court, spokesman German Kostrov said.

He had been accused of masterminding the Sept. 4, 1999 explosion that destroyed a building housing Russian military officers and their families in the Caspian Sea town of Buinaksk. It was one of four bombings of apartment buildings that month, which killed about 300 people in total.

The Kremlin blamed Chechnya-based militants for the attacks and sent troops back into the restive region later that month, starting the second of two wars there in a decade.

Salikhov was acquitted on charges of masterminding the bombing the first time in January by a jury in his home region of Dagestan. The jury, however, found him guilty of lesser charges and ordered him imprisoned for more than four years.

Russia’s Supreme Court in June overturned his acquittal and ordered a retrial.

Russian authorities say the war in Chechnya is over, but rebels continue to carry out small attacks in the region and have been involved in numerous terrorist attacks in recent years in other parts of the volatile North Caucasus and in Moscow.