§ Mr. Ian Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the involvement of al-Qaeda in the murder of three British hostages in Chechnya in 1998. 
§ Mr. Bradshaw
We are aware of and have condemned the links between some extremist groups fighting in Chechnya and Osama bin Laden/the Taliban. We do not 657W know for certain the circumstances behind the deaths of the four men in December 1998. To date we have not seen any corroborating evidence that bin Laden or the Taliban ordered the deaths of the four men.
We first became aware of the allegation last year, when it appeared in an official Russian publication called "Chechnya: The White Paper". A similar article appeared in the Russian newspaper "Gazeta" on 24 October 2001. To date, we have been unable to verify the story, although we have been in contact with the Russian authorities and the author of the "Gazeta" article.