Skip to comments.Russia's Putin Orders Crackdown After School Siege
Posted on 09/04/2004 1:16:00 AM PDT by Walkin Man
Russia's Putin Orders Crackdown After School Siege
Sept. 4, 2004 By Richard Ayton and Oliver Bullough
BESLAN, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin ordered a crackdown in southern Russia after a school siege killed at least 250, and warned Chechen sympathizers on Saturday they would be seen as "accomplices of terrorism."
The Kremlin leader paid a lightning early morning visit to the traumatized North Ossetia region close to Chechnya where the two-day hostage drama at the school ended on Friday in bloody mayhem with Russian forces battling Chechen militants.
"One of the tasks pursued by the terrorists was to stoke ethnic hatred, blow up the whole of our North Caucasus," Putin told local security officials.
"Anyone who will feels sympathetic toward such provocations will be viewed as accomplices of terrorists and terrorism."
The hard words suggested Putin had no intention of backing down from his tough policies of crushing Chechnya's separatist rebellion to keep the mainly Muslim region within Russia, using tactics long criticized by human rights activists.
The storming of the school by Russian forces plunged the small town of Beslan into pandemonium. Troops and armed civilians advanced on the red brick building after explosions inside. Pupils, parents and teachers, many drenched in blood, were carried out on stretchers or in the arms of local men.
No definitive figure for the number of those killed -- many of whom were children -- was available on Saturday.
Interfax news agency quoted local health officials as saying at least 250 people were killed from what might turn out to be 1,200 or so children, parents and teachers taken hostage. Hundreds remained in hospital, 92 in serious condition.
Interfax quoted the regional interior ministry as saying most of the hostages held in the school gym died because of the explosions and the roof collapsing.
"There are still dozens of explosive devices there which prevent us removing the remaining dead bodies," a ministry spokesman said.
RIA Novosti quoted health authorities as saying 60 more bodies were pulled from the school's ruins on Saturday, 36 of them children.
Officials said 27 hostage-takers were killed and three taken alive.
"I saw about 25 corpses in the schoolyard, which were not there yesterday," a Reuters witness said. "About 18 were in body bags lying in two rows. Six or seven were just outside a school window without body bags, all men without shirts."
The bloody denouement at Middle School No. 1 in Beslan made the siege one of the world's worst such episodes.
Four out of the dozen or so mass hostage sieges in the past 30 years have been in Russia. All four have been linked to the Chechnya war and all ended in huge loss of life.
Putin brusquely slapped down officials who, during his visit to Beslan, sought to commend the security forces.
"As far as the special forces are concerned, this is a separate story. We will talk about it later. There are unfortunately many losses," he said, clearly angered by the bloody outcome that came after he went on national television and promised to do everything to keep hostages from harm.
Explosives and arms used by the gunmen were smuggled into the building well in advance, during summer building work on the school, Interfax quoted an unnamed regional security source as saying on Saturday.
"I have ordered Beslan to be sealed off, Ossetia's borders to be closed and checks to be carried out to find all people linked to the terrorist act," Putin said in Beslan.
Some reports said a few of the gunmen may have escaped.
Western governments offered sympathy to Putin. But the European Union said in a statement it wanted an explanation from Russia "how this tragedy could have happened."
Freed hostages described the mayhem on Friday afternoon. "Bombs were strung all over the gym," one teenage girl told state television. "Tape came unstuck on one and it blew up."
"There were two big explosions," said a women in her forties. "We started pushing all the children out of the windows ... Everyone who was there started pushing them out."
Authorities said they had been forced to launch a rescue operation when the gunmen opened fire on fleeing children.
North Ossetia is the only predominantly Orthodox province in the otherwise mostly Muslim North Caucasus. But the whole region is a tinderbox of small national groups and any crackdown carries a risk of disrupting further a delicate ethnic balance.
Putin, easily re-elected to a second term in March, must now reassure Russians they are safe from the threat of separatists.
The near-simultaneous crash of two airplanes last week, in which 90 people died, was blamed on Chechen suicide bombers as was an explosion by a Moscow metro station which killed nine. (Additional reporting by Oleg Shchedrov)
I hope the three live Islamic child-killers wish they had never been born before the Russians kill them and bury them with a pig!
I'm tempted to send Putin a history of our Civil War with the section on Sherman's March to the Sea highlighted....
Yeah, all those Russian "separtists" who are Arab from the middle east.
>>the European Union said in a statement it wanted an explanation from Russia "how this tragedy could have happened."
EU go to hell.
Is the European Union really that stupid to ask a question like that ?
It is time for Russia to use USSR tactics. Like the hijacker who had a plane and demanded whatever, sitting on the tarmac. A box was delivered and inside was what was left of his brother.
No more hijackings.
Hunt them down and kill them. No mercy. No quarter.
Do the Russians have any heavy bombers left?
So ABC still can't say this is about Jihad and transcends simple "separatism" and blames it on a "tinderbox of national groups."
Even after stating the salient info on why this area was attacked: "North Ossetia is the only predominantly Orthodox province in the otherwise mostly Muslim North Caucasus."
>>North Ossetia is the only predominantly Orthodox province in the otherwise mostly Muslim North Caucasus. But the whole region is a tinderbox of small national groups and any crackdown carries a risk of disrupting further a delicate ethnic balance.<<
Sounds like another Kosovo Like situation waiting to happen. It's a good thing Clinton isn't in, he'd want to bomb them.
Yeah, I didn't know OBL was a Russian separtist!?!
OOOHHH! That really pisses me off. Talk about tempting fate. And belittling Putin. Payback's a BEYOTCH, Euroweenies.
The same troops that liberated the european continent from the old USSR occupation should be used to help defend Russia today.
Sounds exactly like something a Pat Leahy, Nancy Pelosi, or Hillary Clinton would say.
I hope and pray that this evil is not being set up here in the USA even as we speak...
There werent any European troops that liberated Eastern Europe. The Eastern Europeans did it themselves.
Every terrorist mass murder is an opportunity for communists to embarrass their enemies, right? Symbiosis.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.