Curso de la crisis en Beslan

The Beslan hostage crisis took place between 1 September 2004 and 3 September 2004, when a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia, was seized by armed multinational terrorists, reportedly a combination of Chechens, Ingush and other nations. After a three-day standoff, the siege was broken by a shootout between the hostage-takers and Russian security forces, leaving an aftermath of more than 335 people killed (156 of them children), about 200 missing and hundreds more wounded.
Contents [showhide]
1 Course of the crisis
1.1 September 1
1.2 September 2
1.3 September 3
1.4 September 6 and September 7
2 Who were the hostage-takers?
2.1 Demands of the hostage-takers
3 Investigations
4 Domestic repercussions of the crisis
5 See also
6 External links
Course of the crisis
September 1
At 09:30 local time (GMT+3) on 1 September 2004 — the morning of the first day of the autumn term — a group of around thirty armed men and women, arriving in a GAZel and a GAZ-66 military lorry, stormed Beslan’s Middle School Number One, whose pupils are aged from seven to eighteen years old. Most of the attackers wore black ski masks and a few were seen carrying explosive belts. After an exchange of gunfire with police, in which five officers were killed, the attackers seized the school building, taking 1181 people hostage, most under the age of eighteen. About fifty hostages managed to flee to safety in the initial attack. There was confusion about how many hostages were left inside; while the government claimed that there were just over 350 hostages remaining, other sources stated that there were as many as 1,500. Repeated shooting was later heard coming from the school buildings, thought by some to be for the intimidation of Russian security forces. It was later revealed that the attackers had killed twenty adult male hostages and thrown their bodies out of the building that day.
One of the female suicide bombers detonated her explosive belt, apparently by mistake. No one around was injured.
Rough plan of school showing positions of Russian forcesA security cordon was soon established around the school, consisting of Russian police and army forces, Spetsnaz, including the Alpha anti-terrorist team, and also members of Ministerstvo Vnutrennih Del (MVD, or Interior Ministry)’s OMON unit. The attackers moved the hostages to the school gymnasium on the first day, mined the building with improvised explosive devices, and surrounded it with tripwires. In a further bid to deter rescue attempts, they threatened to kill fifty hostages for every one of their own members killed by the police, and to kill twenty hostages for every gunman injured. They also threatened to blow up the school should government forces attack. The Russian government initially said that it would not use force to rescue the hostages, and negotiations towards a peaceful resolution did take place on the first and second days, led by Leonid Roshal, a pediatrician whom the hostage-takers had asked for by name. Roshal had helped negotiate the release of children in the 2002 Moscow Theatre Siege.
At Russia’s request, a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council was convened on the evening of September 1, at which the council members demanded «the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages of the terrorist attack». U.S. President George W. Bush reportedly offered «support in any form» to Russia in dealing with the crisis.
September 2
On September 2, negotiations between Roshal and the hostage-takers proved unsuccessful, and they refused even to allow food, water and medicines to be taken in for the hostages or for the bodies of the dead to be removed from the school.
Conditions within the school grew steadily worse. The hostage takers refused to allow any food or water into the gymnasium. Many hostages, especially children, took off their shirts and other articles of clothing because of the sweltering heat within.
In the afternoon, 26 women and infants were freed by the gunmen following new negotiations with former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev. The L.A. Times wrote that some of the mothers with two children were forced to choose one to take with them, and leave the others behind. However, at around 15:30, two explosions occured at the school about ten minutes apart from each other. These were later revealed to be the explosions of rocket-propelled grenades, which had been fired by the hostage-takers in an apparent attempt to keep the security forces well away from the school.
September 3
On the afternoon of September 3, the hostage-takers agreed to allow medical workers to remove bodies from the school grounds. The removal team began to approach the school, but in a few seconds, at around 13:04, the hostage-takers opened fire, and two large explosions were heard. Two medical workers were killed; the rest fled under a hail of gunfire. Part of the gymnasium collapsed, allowing a group of about thirty hostages to escape, but they were fired on by the gunmen; some of the escapees were killed.
Presidential advisor Aslambek Aslakhanov later said that the cause of firing and the subsequent storm had been a spontaneous explosion. A former hostage had reported that the one of the bombs had been insecurely attached by an adhesive tape and had fallen, and that had been the reason of the explosion.
In a conflicting account, an anonymous employee of the Ministry of Emergency Situations said that the shooting began after their truck arrived to the point of pick-up. He could not identify whether the shooting was started by the armed fathers of hostages or by the hostage-takers (see the article in Izvestia below). The reporters and the employee heard increasing automatic gun fire before the blasts.
These two accounts may be reconcilable. Ruslan Aushev, a key negotiator during the siege, told the Novaya Gazeta that an initial explosion was set off by an hostage-taker accidentally tripping over a wire ; as a result, armed civilians, some of them apparently fathers of the hostages, started shooting ; no security forces or hostage-takers were shooting at this point ; however the gunfire led the hostage-takers to believe that the school was being stormed, despite assurances to the contrary by negotiators ; they then reportedly announced «Right, that’s it, it’s time to let off the bombs», which resulted in the order to storm the building being given. [1] (
It appears that at this point the Russian special forces activated their immediate action plan to storm the school to rescue whomever was left inside. A chaotic battle broke out as the special forces sought to enter the school and cover the escape of the hostages. A massive level of force was used; as well as the special forces, the regular army and Interior Ministry troops were also engaged, as were helicopter gunships (including Mi-24 Hinds and Mi-8 Hips) and at least one tank. Many local civilians also joined in the battle, having brought along their own weapons. It seems highly likely that at least some of those killed were casualties of so-called «friendly fire».
The hostage-takers set off more large explosions, totally destroying the gym and setting much of the building on fire, while the special forces commandos blew holes in walls to allow hostages to escape. By 15:00, two hours after the assault began, Russian troops claimed control of most of the school. However, fighting was still continuing in the grounds as evening fell, and three gunmen were located in the basement along with a number of hostages. They were eventually killed, along with the hostages they were holding.
Rough plan of school showing removal vehicle and damaged gymDuring the battle a group of hostage-takers, said by the government to number thirteen, broke through the military cordon and took refuge nearby. Two of those thirteen were reportedly women who allegedly attempted to blend into the crowd and escape disguised as health personnel. The military cordon had been compromised by permitting the passage of hostages’ relatives, dressed in civilian clothing and, in some cases, bearing firearms.
A few of the escapees were said to be cornered in a residential 2 storey house within 40 metres from the gym. Whether or not they had hostages is unknown. The house was destroyed using tanks and flame throwers by 23:00 September 3.
Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Fridinsky said that 31 of 32 attackers had been confirmed dead and one had been seized.
One suspected hostage-taker was beaten to death by the fathers of hostages when he was injured and driven to the hospital (see the article in Izvestia below).
According to official data at least 335 people died, 156 of them children, and more than 700 were wounded, mostly children. Some European news channels say the death toll could reach over the 400 mark in only a few days, because some 176 people are missing. One surviving female hostage committed suicide after returning home. Many other survivors remain in severe shock.
The Russian government has been heavily criticised by many of the local people who, days after the end of the siege, still do not know whether their children are living or dead.
During the operation 11 fighters of the special divisions «Alpha» and «Vimpel» were killed, among them the commander of «Alpha». One of the members of these divisions said that the reason for such large losses had been that fighters had first of all rescued children and the hostage-takers had then shot their backs. Wounds of varying severity were received by more than 30 fighters in the Russian special forces divisions.
September 6 and September 7
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a two day national mourning for September 6 and 7. On September 7, 135,000 people joined an anti-terror demonstration on the Red Square in Moscow.
On September 7th, Putin canceled the planned meeting with German chancellor Gerhard Schröder in Hamburg and in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. It was believed that Putin feared harsh criticism from the German people and chancellor on the Beslan issue.
Who were the hostage-takers?
The identity of the attackers was not immediately clear, it was widely believed that they were separatists from nearby Chechnya, but Aslambek Aslakhanov has denied it: «They were not Chechens. When I started talking with them in Chechen, they had answered: we do not understand, speak Russian». Investigation has established that the structure of the gang was international: there were Arabs, Tatars, Kazakhs, Chechens, Uzbek and even one local resident. It has been established that this group is the core of a gang of Basayev, and this group actively participated in a terrorist attack in the Republic of Ingushetia from June 21 until June 23, 2004. Russian authorities have linked the hostage-takers to Islamist terrorists supporting Chechen independence.
Some surviving hostages haven’t seen any Arab hostage-takers and pointed that the attackers insisted on speaking only Russian. Others say their speech sounded Arab not Chechen.
Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov has denied that his forces were involved in the siege. He condemned the action and all attacks against civilians. His statement was made public by his envoy Akhmed Zakayev who has been given asylum by London. The crisis was strikingly similar to the 1995 Budyonnovsk hostage crisis and the 2002 Moscow Theatre Siege in which hundreds were held hostage by Chechen fighters. The man who claimed responsibility for both those attacks, Shamil Basayev, has not yet publicly commented on the Beslan situation. Newspaper reports have linked his Ingush deputy, Magomet Yevloyev, to the school attack.
The hostage crisis followed a week of attacks against civilians blamed on Chechen separatist armed groups, in which a metro station in Moscow was bombed, killing ten people, and two airliners were apparently blown up by suicide bombers, killing 89 people.
Noting the Arabs, the Russian government has suggested that the hostage-takers may have ties to al-Qaeda.
Demands of the hostage-takers
The hostage-takers in Beslan are reported to have at first made the following demands:
Release of Chechen fighters arrested in the aftermath of an earlier raid on Ingushetia.
Withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya.
Presence of the following people in the school
Aleksander Dzasokhov, president of North Ossetia,
Murat Ziazikov, president of Ingushetia,
Alu Alkhanov, president of Chechnya (other reports name Aslambek Aslakhanov, presidential advisor or Mukharbek Aushev, Duma member representing Ingushetia),
Leonid Roshal, director of the emergency surgery department of the Pediatrics Institute.
ITAR-TASS reported a territorial law enforcement source told them that militants disguised as repairmen had concealed weapons and explosives in the school in July 2004 after visiting three schools in Beslan, but this version was later refuted.
The suspected hostage-taker Nur-Pashi Kulayev, 24, born in Chechnya, has been captured and was identified by former hostages. The government-controlled Perviy Kanal showed fragments of his interrogation. Kulayev said the group was led by a Chechnya-born militant nick-named «Polkovnik» (Colonel) and by Ukraine-born Anatoliy Vladimirovitch Khodov who was a suspect in the May 15, 2004 Moscow-Vladikavkaz train bombing.
According to Kulayev, «Polkovnik» shot the leader of the militants who objected to capturing children during the Beslan event. Kulayev said that «Polkovnik» detonated two female suicide bombers using a remote control.
An anonymous source in of one of the law enforcing agencies said that according to hostages «Polkovnik» might be a Russian. [2] (
Nur-Pashi Kulayev is represented by Umar Sikoyev.
At the press conference with foreign journalists Vladimir Putin rejected the prospect of an open public inquiry (see The Guardian, September 7) but cautiously agreed with an idea of investigation by Duma. He warned though that the latter might turn into a «political show».
Domestic repercussions of the crisis
Experts agree that failure to save lives may have serious repercussions for Vladimir Putin’s administration. Despite earlier promises to peacefully resolve the crisis, Russian special forces resorted to armed force, failed to keep the battleground secure from entry by civilians or exit by the militants, and are struggling to provide consistent reports of the situation to the media. The Russian government points out that the hostage-takers seemingly opened fire first, compelling the security forces to act in order to save the lives of the hostages.
Two reporters known as openly critical to the government could not get to Beslan. Andrey Babitsky, a journalist with the Russian service of Radio Free Europe — Radio Liberty, was indicted of mischief after an alleged conflict with security guards in the Moscow Vnukovo airport (see external links) and sentenced to a five-day arrest. The Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya fell into a coma (see external links) in the airplane bound to Rostov-On-Don and had her health seriously damaged. There are concerns that both incidents were provoked by the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (Federal Security Service).
Regional medical workers were stripped of their mobile phones (see external links) and forbidden to leave local hospitals at the end of their shifts, in what is suspected to be a move to suppress leaks of casualty figures and related information.
It has been reported that the interior minister of North Ossetia has resigned.
Raf Shakirov, chief editor of the Izvestia newspaper, was forced to resign after criticism by the major shareholders of both style and content of the Saturday, September 4 issue [3] ( In contrast to the less emotional coverage by other Russian newspapers, Izvestia had featured large pictures of dead or injured hostages; it also expressed doubts about the government’s version of events.[4] (
See also
School massacre
External links
School siege timeline ( (BBC News)
Attackers storm Russian school ( – 1 September 2004
Force ruled out in Russian siege ( – 1 September 2004
Group released from siege school ( – 2 September 2004
Bloody end to Russia school siege ( – 3 September 2004
Siege school yields more bodies ( – 4 September 2004
Graphical timeline and basic overview ( – 4 September 2004
Eyewitness accounts ( (BBC News)
Teacher Aslan Kudzoyev’s account on September 1 killings of 15 hostages ( by Caucasus Times.
Kazbek Torchinov saw bodies thrown out early morning September 2, translation from Novaya Gazeta (
translation of article (
on doubts about who started the shooting, on motives of the hostage-takers (some lost their children in Chechen war), dispelling the myths about an African recruit and quoting a hostage denying any alleged rapes by the rebels.
translation of article on Moscow Vnukovo airport conflict (
translation of article on Anna Politkovskaya falling into a coma (
translation of article on medical workers having phones removed (
translation of article. Hostages speak (
translation of on the investigation (
Russian press review (,12900,1297822,00.html) – The Guardian, September 6, 2004
English overview of Russian press reaction.
Global press review examining how Putin should respond (,12900,1297821,00.html) – The Guardian, September 6, 2004
Editorial line from The Mail on Sunday, New York Times, Arab News and more.
Angry Putin rejects public Beslan inquiry (,2763,1298905,00.html), The Guardian, September 7, 2004.
Donate to a victims’ relief fund (
Missing hostages (
Photo reports [5] (, [6] (
Russian TV broadcasts siege video ( (BBC News), September 7, 2004
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Official Statement ( (separatist government)
The Independent: One siege, two stories: how the truth about School One is gradually emerging (
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