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Bloodbath in five acts
The Straits Times ^ | SEPT 5, 2004

Posted on 09/04/2004 9:44:03 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe

The three-day Russian school hostage crisis ended in bloodshed and pandemonium on Friday when explosions blew up at the gym where some 1,200 captives were being held, touching off an counter-attack by Russian commandos and fierce gun battles in surrounding streets. This is how the drama unfolded.


ACT I: Standoff

About two dozen masked and camouflaged militants, believed to be separatists from warring Chechnya, seized Middle School No. 1 in Beslan, North Ossetia, on Wednesday.

The gunmen were armed with rocket launchers and explosive belts.

According to one witness, the hostage-takers told everyone to hand over their mobile phones, and threatened to kill 20 people if someone tried to hide a phone.

'The terrorists were hiding behind trees,' said nine-year-old Arkady Zangiyev. 'They jumped out and started shooting in the air. Some boys fell down in the street.'

Several men were killed in the first onslaught, among them security guards, neighbours and fathers who happened to be at the school for the opening. Their bodies were left where they fell, baking in the late summer heat.

According to some first-hand accounts, the men had been killed or blown up by female suicide bombers.

Some Russian media reported that some gunmen who stayed outside started screaming out in good Russian: 'Russians, Russians, come here, don't be afraid.'

'One of the terrorists tried to lure children with chocolate,' Ms Rosa Dudiyea told the Kommersant newspaper.

Once in control of the school, the guerillas wired the school's gym for a showdown. They placed a box of explosives at the centre of the room, connected to a pedal which could detonate the explosives.

After that, the guerillas set another 16 to 18 smaller, cylindrical bombs around the room, some on windowsills, even one in a basketball net.

On Friday, the militants were still holding some 1,200 children and adults in the gym.

Though Russian officials never confirmed it publicly, the hostage-takers demanded an immediate end to the war in Chechnya and the release of prisoners taken after a guerilla raid this summer in the neighbouring region of Ingushetia.

No group claimed responsibility, but unnamed Russian officials quoted by Itar-Tass news agency said Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev was the mastermind.

ACT II: Flashpoint

The crisis spun out of control at about 0900 GMT (1pm local time and 5pm Singapore time) on Friday, when four emergency workers arrived to remove the bodies.

Minutes later, one explosion was heard. There are conflicting accounts of the source and reason for the blast.

The leading theory is that one of the captors accidentally set off a booby trap, but some hostages suggested that an explosive accidentally fell off a basketball hoop. Others said a trip wire that had been taped to a wall was dislodged.

Some witnesses said two female fighters had detonated explosive belts wrapped around them. Mr Sergei Ignatchenko, the spokesman for Russia's Federal Security Service, said the blasts might have been staged by the attackers to sow confusion and to escape.

With many of the explosives electrically linked, the first blast set off at least one other.

The explosives brought the ceiling down from two floors above on top of hundreds of schoolchildren who never had a chance and the gymnasium was turned into a mass of twisted metal, shattered bones and charred flesh. At least 100 bodies were scattered on the floor.

'We were sitting next to the window and talking to each other. And then there were these two explosions. It deafened us, and as soon as the explosions sounded, the entire gym, the floors, the walls and the ceiling were covered in blood,' said 16-year-old Zaur Aboyev. 'And I knew it was time to run.'

ACT III: Mayhem

A group of about 30 hostages, some bloodied and screaming, began leaping for the open windows to escape. As they ran, their captors pursued them, shooting and battering them with their rifle butts.

The unexpected explosions and gunfire caused Russian commandos surrounding the school to open fire on the hostage-takers. Chaos ensued.

'Bandits opened fire on the escaping children and adults,' said Mr Valery Andreyev, head of the regional Federal Security Service. 'To save their lives, we retaliated.'

Hostages described running through intense gunfire and hiding in a series of outbuildings before reaching a police command post.

Some residents joined Russian police and army forces in firing at the building; others rushed to the school, under fire, to escort or carry out the fleeing hostages and put them in vehicles headed to the hospital.

Amidst the shooting many young hostages, most of them barefoot and almost naked after three days in the withering heat of their gym-turned-prison, ran or limped or were carried to safety.

Those still standing gulped bottles of water handed to them by rescue workers. 'They're killing us,' a young girl on a stretcher told a police officer. 'They're exploding everything.'

They were first treated at a field hospital set up nearby. Military and civilian ambulances, as well as civilian cars commandeered by soldiers, were used to take the injured to different hospitals.

In the confusion, some militants began fleeing the building.

Some people were still being held captive.

ACT IV: Storming

As four Mi-8 combat helicopters hovered over the school, special forces stormed the buildings. At 1005 GMT, Russian commanders reported that their troops were nearly in full command of the building, but the gunfire continued.

At 1040 GMT, three armoured personnel carriers with troops approached the school.

Groups of heavily armed special forces - sweating beneath bulletproof vests - advanced and retreated.

Between barrages of grenade explosions and intense gunfire, one blue-uniformed soldier ran down the street with a collection bag in his hand.

'Has anyone got any bullets? We are short of ammo!' he was quoted as saying by the Christian Science Monitor.

'I saw the bullets flying right at us from the second floor and the first floor,' said nine-year-old Arkady Zangiyev.

'I fell on the ground. They were shooting. Then I started running. One guy from our class had a problem with his foot, and I helped him run. I managed to run to the back exit, and there was one of our policemen there. He grabbed a wounded boy and carried him.'

A traffic jam of ambulances crowded outside the school, and civilians turned their cars into rescue vehicles as well. Many of the injured were bloodied and burned and covered in dirt.

The rescue operation was interrupted by a new round of shooting, right near the line of makeshift ambulances. Rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire from automatic rifles sent the volunteers retreating a block further from the school, and it was there that four children's corpses soon appeared, laid out under bloodstained white sheets.

Several parents came up and looked under the sheets, searching. Then an old woman in a torn flowered dress was brought out on a stretcher, also dead, and rolled onto the grass next to the four children.

At around 1200 GMT, sappers began demining the school buildings and grounds.

ACT V: The end

As the gunfights raged, the hostage-takers split into several groups.

The most intense battle was focused on the school, where three to eight hostage-takers remained with as many as 50 hostages until Russian forces finally overcame what appeared to be the last of them on Friday evening.

Thirteen of the attackers reportedly headed south and took refuge in a nearby house where they were surrounded by special forces.

Only well after 1700 GMT did Russian officials announce the end to the battle.

Officials said 32 of the attackers - some of them Arab - have been killed. They said three suspected hostage-takers were arrested trying to escape - wearing civilian dress, according to some reports - and Ekho Moskvy radio said a suspected female hostage-taker was detained when she approached an area hospital wearing a white robe.

A few blocks away from the school, a man thought to be a fighter was killed by a furious mob shortly after he was arrested, according to witnesses.

'The crowd grabbed him. The police managed to seize him for a short time, but while they were escorting him, at some point one of the local people who had a hunting rifle just shot the guy in the chest,' said Ms Tatyana Sagutonova, a 22-year-old student.

There are contradictory reports as to whether any of the militants are still on the run.

At least 322 people, including 155 children, were killed in the siege.

Source: BBC, wire agencies

Photos: AFP, AP and REUTERS

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; Russia; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: beslan; jihad; muslims; ossetia; religionofpeace
The result:

1 posted on 09/04/2004 9:44:03 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
A friend who lived in that area wrote me a little about the events over there:

A na schet chechni.... a podderzhivayu tvoe mnenie. U lyudey v krovi i v gennakh voyna, za stol'ko vekov voevat'. I na samom dele, slozhno prinimat' kakoe libo reshenie dlya pravitel'stva i lyudey kotorye s takim stalknulis'. Mne kazhetsya, chto vse dumayut i nadeyustsya na razum, a zdes'... prosto instinkt... kak u zhivotnykh. Im vse ravno kogo oni vzyali v zalozhniki... Ya ponimayu zhenshchin, kotorye idut na takoe (u nikh ubili brata ili muzha) i vse taki ehto ne povod delat' takie postupki... Odnim slovom, Kavkaz, gortsy...

"Well, about Chechnya... I support your opinion. People have war in their blood and in their genes, so many centuries of fighting. And at the same time, it's hard for the goverment or people who have run into this to decide what to do. It seems to me that everyone thinks and hopes for reason, while here... simply instinct... like animals. They could care less who they've taken hostage... I understand women who go into this (someone killed a brother or husband) but all the same it's no excuse for such... In a word - the Caucasus, highlanders..."

Okolo nas, gde ya rosla, bylo selenie sotoyashchee iz odnikh chechentsev. Dlya menya bylo diko videt'... zhenshchiny molchat, khodyat postoyanno v platkakh, za muzhchinami. A kak vyzyvayushchie veli sebya mal'chiki... Oni koroli, vokrug nikh ves' mir krutit'sya... "Chistilishche"... ya ne smotrela. Vernee ya nachala smotret' i vyklyuchila... Ne smogla. Ya boeviki i uzhastiki prakticheski ne smotryu. Redko smotryu takie sobytiya, esli sploshnoe nasilie pokazyvayut... ya ukhozhu. U menya serdtse zamiraet i nachinayut sploshnikom slezy idti.

"Where I grew up, nearby there was a village made up entirely of Chechnyans. For me it looked so wild... women were silent, went about always with scarves, behind the men. But oh how challenging the boys conducted themseves... they were kings, the whole world revolved around them... I didn't see 'Pugatory' (my note: film about the first Chechyan war). More truthfully, I started to watch and turned it off... I couldn't. I practically don't watch war and horror films. Rarely I watch news such as this, if they show outright violence... I leave. My heart dies and tears come."

2 posted on 09/04/2004 10:39:52 PM PDT by struwwelpeter
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To: katnip
I saw the bullets flying right at us from the second floor and the first floor,' said nine-year-old Arkady Zangiyev.

'I fell on the ground. They were shooting. Then I started running. One guy from our class had a problem with his foot, and I helped him run. I managed to run to the back exit, and there was one of our policemen there. He grabbed a wounded boy and carried him.'

3 posted on 09/04/2004 10:44:05 PM PDT by MarMema
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To: MarMema

Kids - The f*cking terrrorist goes after kids.... May the rottens bastards rot in hell. If the world doesn't see the issue clearly after this then we deserve what we get.

4 posted on 09/04/2004 10:48:13 PM PDT by KSCITYBOY
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