Beslan's increasingly restless residents were told yesterday that high-ranking Russian military officers who "were still at their posts" were suspected of helping Chechen militants seize the town's school last September.
Two men holding a rank "higher than a major and a colonel" were said to be involved in the plot and had apparently deliberately not fulfilled the functions for which they are paid, presumably in exchange for some kind of bribe.
The revelation, disclosed by the parliamentary commission investigating the atrocity, appeared to shatter the illusion that the tragedy was the isolated work of a small band of Chechen separatists.
It is likely to enrage the victims' mothers who are becoming increasingly vociferous in their demands that the president of North Ossetia, the republic where Beslan is located, should resign. Last week they blocked Beslan's main highway for three days to press their demands and are threatening to take further "illegal" action if Alexander Dzasokhov, whom they accuse of failing to protect their children, does not step down.
Alexander Torshin, chairman of the parliamentary commission looking into the bloodbath, said yesterday that "a terrorist act of such a scale would have been impossible to commit without accomplices."