More on the school crisis
I am just transfixed by this story, for me it is just heartwrenching. I decided I am not going to give the play-by-play update as there are too many unknowns. The Russians have a habit of not providing complete details. I don’t know if it is institutional memory from before the fall of the Iron Curtain, but we keep seeing it happen.
Anyway here are some excerpts from the NYT’s story on this that caught my eye.
Other officials, in Moscow and in North Ossetia, said that Russian forces had not instigated the firefights but were forced to return fire and then to storm the school after the first explosions, which occurred just after 1 p.m.
“Taking advantage of the panic, hostages began to escape,” Lev Dzugayev, a spokesman for North Ossetia’s president, said in an interview, referring to the initial blasts. “The bandits began shooting them in the back. The special forces on our side had to cover the fleeing hostages. This is unfortunately how it happened.”
Even the preliminary toll of this hostage crisis exceeded that of Russia’s last one, in October 2002, when at least 41 armed attackers stormed and held a theater in Moscow for only a few hours longer in a raid with striking similarities. A daring rescue effort by commandos killed all the captors, but also left 129 of the hostages dead, mostly from the effects of a nerve gas pumped into the building. With memories of the siege newly revived, the authorities here had hoped, in vain, to avoid a similarly bloody end.
The dead included several Russian soldiers and security officials â€” one reported killed tonight as he rescued two more children â€” and at least 20 of the estimated force of attackers of 30 or more. What happened to the other captors was unknown. At least a few were reported to have escaped in the confusion.”
“The morgue at the city’s main hospital, though, overflowed. More than 20 bodies lay on stretchers on grass outside. Men and women filed through lifting the sheets that covered the dead, which included children and Russian soldiers or security officers. Recognition brought wrenching, piercing wails. A mother in a red-and-white blouse knelt on the ground, weeping as she kissed her dead daughter’s face.
There were conflicting accounts of the source and the reason for the initial explosions. Some witnesses and officials cited by news agencies said the attackers had mishandled a bomb; some said two of the female fighters had detonated explosive belts wrapped around their bodies; the spokesman for Russia’s Federal Security Service, Sergei N. Ignatchenko, said the explosions might have been staged by the attackers in an effort to sow confusion and escape.
Some of the attackers, he said in an interview in Moscow, had changed into civilian clothes and blended into the panicked crowd fleeing the building. He and others said that some of the attackers, including a sniper on the roof or from a second-story window, had fired on those who fled.
“When they opened fire, we were compelled to give the order for the special forces to attack in order to save people,” he said.”
“Hours after hostages who could streamed from the school, several gunmen remained positioned on the school grounds and battled fiercely, indicating not only their suicidal determination but also a high degree of planning and state of supply. “They showed up with crates and crates of ammunition,” and even dogs, he said.
The violence induced reprisals by incensed residents. There was reports that angry Ossetians had attacked captured gunmen. A man believed to be one of them had made his way to an alley near the school and hid under an army truck before being captured by Russian soldiers during the fighting. A crowd then set upon the man, who was in his 30’s with a big black beard. The crowd beat him, tearing at his clothes, as the soldiers tried to shuffle him away.
“Everybody tried to beat him,” said Khariton Valiyev, 58, who was in the crowd. “People wanted to tear him to pieces. I myself would have pulled his eyes from his head with my fingers.”
His fate was not known.”
Anonymous September 4, 2004 at 3:58 pm
Exactly. Put in a false passport and a suitcase containing a bottle of jack daniels and they pass through airport security with ease. standard profiling will become useless.
Jack's Shack September 4, 2004 at 2:49 pm
OBL and company have been looking at Chechnya for quite some time. Many have blonde hair and blue eyes and could be used to try and avoid the “profiling” that is taking place.
It is a very fluid situation.
Anonymous September 4, 2004 at 2:46 pm
Another worrying development is that chechyan terrorists are constantly raisung the bar, making demands they know moscow will not give in to only to galvanize public attention to their cause.
First in ’96 they sieged a hospital in boedzjonovsk, in ’02 they sieged a theater in moscow and now a school in beslan. When you look at the ‘escalation curve’ you see the terrorists almost deliberately let their siege spin out of control into an orgy of violence.
With all nuclear material harbored in the backyards of former soviet satellite states you’ll only need your imagination to predict what ultimately their next move will be.
Anonymous September 4, 2004 at 2:37 pm
Bush must also take notice; mohammed atta, the 9/11 ringleader, was also heavily involved in the chechyan conflict. He even contemplated becoming a terrorist for chechyan rebels before making up his mind and introducing terror to new york city.
Jack's Shack September 4, 2004 at 2:18 pm
I think that you are correct about everything. This is quickly spiraling out of control. The Chechens are not going away and I don’t see anything that the Russians can do to stop this.
Anonymous September 4, 2004 at 1:48 pm
Maybe also interesting to mention; chechnya appears to have become the ‘terrorist laboritory’ of the world. Many terroris methods are first being ‘tested’ by chechyan militants befor they are being taken over by AQ, ansar-al-islam, al-tawid, mohammed’s 2nd armed brigade and the likes.
The ‘civilised’ world must take notice, espescially the US and the EU, to urge russia into taking diplomatic measures to break the impasse with chechnya under the auspice of international observers to control the retrieval of (semi)-autonomy or peaceful integration into the russian federation.
The apotheosis of the school-massacre, the strategic role of chechnya in the development of new terrorist attacks employed in international terrorists forces the ‘international community'(or what’s left for it after the US reduced the UN irrelevant during the ‘iraq debates’ to participate in an ctive role in breaking the death-lock between chechnya and russia.
What is needed is as i mentioned peaceful transfer to autonomy or partial autonomy or integration into the russian federation with approval of the chechyan population.
The son of kadyrov, who was assassinated in may this year, must disappear. He’s an extension of russian state terror who is plaguing the ruined country with his private army.
Whatever happened, the time is over that the outside world can sit idle while one tragedy after another unfolded in the caucasus.
Anonymous September 4, 2004 at 1:32 pm
The relentless attitude of the russian government under putin has certainly added to the radicalization of chechyan militancy.
This process has begone slow. In the early ’90’s a US delegate was kidnapped by chechyans, after diplomatic approach he was released and the delegate declared he was ‘relatively well-treated'(eventhough he did lose a finger.
Russian invasion into chechnya changed everything. I’ve been to chechnya myself on some ocassions and the capital grozny is one heart-wrenching derelict, a grotesque testament of perversive russian policy.
During the invasion into chechnya the russians killed thousands upon thousands of children, elderly and women while the world looked the other way around. Oftenly chechyan fledglings were shot by ossetians, indeed the school that turned into a terrorist stronghold.
Jack, if you still have a back-up of old topics you might notice in the chechyan plane hijacking thread that i mentioned ossetia being next, because it is gaining so much support from moscow who is maintaining the country as a strategic retreat for their suppression of chechnya.
Unfortunately, i’m afraid the current wave of chechyan terrorism(first the plane crashes, then the black widows blowing themselves up on a crowded roundabout and now the school massacre) is only a prelude for worse things to come.
Jack's Shack September 4, 2004 at 2:55 am
It is barbaric.
SDH September 4, 2004 at 2:26 am
This is inhuman. I can’t consider AQ thugs as soldiers.