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Russia holds sect leader in Beslan children fraud

Written by: Staff
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MOSCOW, Apr 6 (Reuters) Russian police have detained a notorious sect leader who promised to resurrect children killed in the Beslan hostage tragedy on charges of defrauding people who believed he had special powers, prosecutors said today.

Mothers of the dead children demanded a legal probe into Grigory Grabovoi after a seance shown on national television last September during which he said the children could return, if parents paid him enough money.

Children made up more than half of the 331 people who died when a three-day siege of a school captured by pro-Chechen rebels collapsed into a bloodbath.

Grabovoi, who claims close links to top officials, says he can heal people, cure AIDS and diagnose mechanical defects with his mind.

''Grabovoi has been detained by law enforcement officers. He is suspected of fraud,'' said a spokesman for Moscow city prosecutors.

NTV television said police had burst into a seance yesterday night and dragged the self-proclaimed healer away through a back entrance despite opposition from believers.

Several of the leaders of the Beslan Mothers' group appeared on stage together with Grabovoi in September, causing angry splits in the ranks of a movement that had proved a formidable pressure group pushing for a probe into the disaster.

Some mothers accused Grabovoi of acting on behalf of top officials to neutralise the Beslan mothers' group as a political force by encouraging them to humiliate themselves on national television.

REUTERS OM KP1657

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