"Unfortunately, in conditions of war it is practically impossible to bring people guilty for such terrorist acts to justice," the former Chechen president said in a statement on the  chechenpress.com website on Friday.

"However, I responsibly announce that after the end of the war, individuals guilty of illegal acts will be handed over to a court, including Shamil Basayev," he added.

But Badreddin Beino, head of the Amman-based Arab-Caucasian Studies Centre, cast doubts over the authenticity of the report on the same website in which Basayev claimed responsibility for the hostage crisis in Beslan, southern Russia, in which at least 339 people died, more than half of them children.

"I have to point out that such acts (as Beslan) are a consequence ... of
the genocidal war waged
by the Russian leadership against the Chechen people"

Aslan Maskhadov,
Chechen leader

Speaking to Aljazeera, Beino said the centre tried to contact Basayev to make sure that he was behind the statement, but were unable to reach him. He added, the only way to verify if the report was true would be if Basayev himself admitted in public that he was behind the hostage taking.

Beino urged the media not to rush to any report published on the internet since it  could easily be made by anyone.

'Genocidal war'

Maskhadov called for the creation of an international tribunal to try war crimes on both sides.

"But I have to point out that such acts (as Beslan) are a consequence and response to the genocidal war waged by the Russian leadership against the Chechen people, in which the Russian army has killed 250,000 people, including 42,000 children," he said.

Russian troops have been fighting a brutal war in Chechnya since October 1999, the second such war in a decade in the restive southern Russian republic, which enjoyed de facto independence after the first 1994-96 conflict.

Russian is offering $10 millon for
Shamil Basayev 

Moscow says that life in the war-shattered republic is returning to normal, but fighting claims daily casualties on both sides and a series of recent terror attacks by Chechen fighters in Russia proper have killed more than 400 people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has angrily dismissed calls from some Western countries to hold negotiations with Chechen rebel leaders such as Maskhadov.

Fighting continues

On Friday pro-Russian forces killed at least five Chechens in fighting at Alleroy in the east of the war-torn republic, Russian media quoted Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov as saying.

"Thanks to emergency action, we were able to drive off the fighters from Alleroy. They suffered serious losses and we have already found at least five bodies in Alleroy alone," said Kadyrov.

Ramzan Kadyrov is seen as one of Chechnya's most powerful figures and ran the feared security forces of his father, Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov, who was slain in a bomb blast in the Chechen capital last May.

Putin sent troops into Chechnya in what was meant to be a lightning "anti-terror operation" in October 1999 but has developed into a bloody war.