Beslan is the capital of North Ossetia on the Border with Georgia, in the Caucasus. North Ossetia is an autonomy located between Kabardino-Balkaria in the West and Ingushetia in the East and is few hours drive from the heartland of Chechnya. North Ossetia stretches on 8,000 km and has a population of about 750,000 (02/2008), most of them Russian Christians Orthodox.
On 09/01/2004, the first day of the 2005 school year, a group of about 40 masked Chechen heavily armed terrorists, including two women, arrived to Beslan, the capital of North Ossetia, took over the local elementary school no. 1 just when the ceremony for the opening of the new school year began and took hostage about 1200 pupils, teachers and staff. All the children were of age between 6 up to 13.
The Chechens were identified as operating under the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, directly commanded by the “Colonel”, identified by Russian intelligence as Ruslan Khuchbarov, and Magomed Evloev, known also as Magas. They arrived to Beslan in a small convoy of stolen Russian army vehicles, two trucks and two jeeps. The perpetrators also bribed border guard and police, very common in this area, in order not to be questioned on the way to Beslan.
After a short outshoot with the Police in Beslan, the Chechens took over the school which is a very large compound, immediately began to concentrate all the 1,200 hostages in the school gymnasium and to booby-trap it and all the entrances to the building with explosives they brought with them in the trucks. Suicide bombers stood guard all the time ready to pull the trigger. Soon the terrorists managed to release a tape to the Russian media which has shown the horrifying conditions inside the Beslan School but the Russian authorities prevented any publication, in real time, of the tape.
Some of the Chechen rebels were left outside to monitor the area and to report through radio to the terrorist inside the school the possible preparations of the Russian army. One of the “scouts” – Nur-Pashi Kulayev, was traced down by the Russian intelligence and captured.
Shamil Basayev’s demands to free the hostages were: immediate withdrawal of the Russian forces from Chechnya and formal independence for Chechnya.
Ruslan Khuchbarov “The colonel”, the leading commander of the Beslan Horror, negotiated with a mediator, the former president of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev, a possible solution which led, apparently, to the release of 11 mothers with 14 babies in the second day of the siege, the 09/02/2004.
After 53 hours, on 09/03/2004 noon, the Russians and the Chechens agreed to release a great number of children and the bodies of two shot hostages in return for food and water. At first many children were really released and food began was brought in, when an ambulance approached to collect the bodies an explosion occurred inside the school compound, which led immediately to exchange of fire with Russian troops who attempted to storm the building. In the Caucasus, where everybody has a rifle under the bed, many unorganized civilians joined the fighting in order to save their children and relatives and within minutes Beslan School became a chaotic inferno where everybody is shooting everybody.
326 is the official number of innocent civilians, most of them children, who died in the catastrophe although the true number will never be known. More then 700 were wounded. 20 Russian soldiers were killed in the assault, some of them by the uncontrolled fire of local civilians.
32 of the terrorist were killed on the scene, including the two women. 12 managed to escape and some of them were later hunted down and killed. Some are still (02/2008) at large. (See – Beslan Perpetrators )
* during the siege, already in the first day, a suicide woman blew herself up in the school corridor without any further casulties – the reason remains unknown although there were speculations that the explosion was in order to demonstrate the Chechens contempt to death.
* The reason of the explosion that triggered the final showdown is also unknown. It could be a simple accident in the worst possible time or a deliberate act of one of the more extreme hostage-takers.
* According to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) 10 of the hostage-takers came from Arab countries and were in contact during the operation with fellow Islamic militants, some of them affiliated to Al Qaeda, before and during Beslan operation and siege. Other Western intelligence organizations doubt the Russian allegations as an attempt to link the terror attack in Beslan to the Global Al Qaeda rather then to the local conflict in Chechnya. (See – Beslan Perpetrators )
* There is evidence that the Saudi Sheikh Abu Omar al-Sayf, who was considered as the spiritual leader of Shamil Basayev’s men since 1995 and was supporting his terror operations with money he raised in Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World.
* The Chechens also followed the Terror roadmap manual, written by Abdul Aziz Muqrin, an Al Qaeda operative in Saudi Arabia who was killed on 06/18/2004.
* Nur-Pashi Kulayev was, eventually, the only one who was directly involved in the Beslan Horror attack that was captured alive, interrogated and put on trial.
* For an unknown reason the Russian elite anti-terror Alfa unit was not on the scene in order to take control and organize the take over.
* The Beslan terror attack became one of the most disastrous terror attacks ever committed in the world.
* At least five of the Beslan perpetrators, who were identified, were previously pronounced as dead in deferent occasions. The mistakes raise a serious question about the reliability and efficiency of the Russian security service – FSB .
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