Russians Storm School, End Seige
Russian forces today stormed a school here where heavily armed fighters held hundreds of children, parents and teachers after two large explosions rocked the building this afternoon, provoking fierce gunfights as frightened and wounded hostages streamed out. The assault did not appear to be planned, but rather began with scattered fire that quickly erupted to a crescendo, punctuated by more blasts. Dozens of hostages Ã¢€” many barely dressed, their faces strained with fear and exhaustion Ã¢€” survived the assault, but others emerged bloodied and in shock.
There were preliminary reports that scores of people died in the fighting, including hostages and guerrillas. Officials in North Ossetia told news agencies that many bodies remained on the floor of the school’s gymnasium, where the attackers had held the hostages surrounded by explosive devices. The officials said that more than 300 wounded people, many of them children, were hospitalized in Beslan and in the region’s capital, Vladikavkaz. As the fighting erupted, dozens of ambulances and other cars ferried wounded children and adults. In one there was a teenage girl, her black hair matted to her bloody face, her mouth open, apparently gravely wounded.
Russian troops stormed a school Friday in a chaotic battle to free hundreds of parents, teachers and children who had been held hostage for two days by Chechen separatists. Naked and screaming children ran for safety amid machinegun fire and explosions while attack helicopters clattered overhead. The Tass and Interfax news agencies spoke of over 300 wounded, mostly children. Rebels fled with soldiers in pursuit. Witnesses at the scene in Beslan, in the North Ossetia region near Chechnya, saw several bodies on stretchers and Russian news agencies said at least seven people had been dead on arrival at hospital.
Half- or fully naked children gulped from bottles of water after two days without drink in a stiflingly hot and crowded school. Some lay on stretchers. There was no definite toll, although Tass quoted an unidentified official as saying most of the hostages were alive: “Those children who remained in the school, in general, were not hurt. The ones who suffered were the children in the group which ran from the school and on whom the fighters opened fire.” It was unclear what had triggered the battle, shortly after Russia insisted it would not resort to force to free the hostages held for 53 hours without food or water. Tass said troops had blown a hole in a wall to let hostages escape. It also said soldiers were battling gunmen who had fled to the house in the south of the town.
More than 100 bodies have been found in a Russian school gym after troops stormed the building in a bid to end a terrifying hostage crisis, news agencies reported. Russia’s Interfax reported the toll Friday, citing its own correspondent. The figured matched an earlier report from Britain’s ITV, which said its cameraman had managed to look inside the gym. Interfax said dozens of people were killed when the roof collapsed at the school. Itar-Tass said more than 400 hostages and local residents had been injured and taken to hospitals.
BBC has an excellent timeline, At a glance: Russian school siege.
Donald Sensing has a good analysis of why this was both a huge policy failure on the part of the Putin government and yet also evidence of why “terrorist events cannot be managed with any degree of precision.” I agree on both counts. It’s simply amazing that the Russians seemed completely clueless throughout, not knowing to the nearest thousand even how many people were in the building. But terrorists always have the advantage, since their cause gets attention even in if the hostages are all safely freed and the terrorists all blown to bits, the most favorable outcome imaginable. They win no matter what.
This is especially true when the mass media continues to legitimate them–they’re always “separatists” or “militants” or some such rather than “murderers” or “terrorists”–no matter how long the list of their attrocities grows.