Beslan school hostage crisis


Beslan school hostage crisis

] Several officials also said there appeared to be only 15 to 20 militants in the school. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E02E0DB1231F931A3575AC0A9629C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2 Insurgents seize school in Russia and hold scores] "The New York Times", September 2, 2004] The crisis was responded with a near-total silence from President of Russia Vladimir Putin and the rest of Russia's political leaders. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A60411-2004Sep3?language=printer Putin's Silence on Crisis Underscores Chilling Trend] "The Washington Post", September 4, 2004] Only on the second day Putin made his first public comment on the siege during a meeting in Moscow with the King Abdullah II of Jordan: "Our main task, of course, is to save the lives and health of those who became hostages. All actions by our forces involved in rescuing the hostages will be dedicated exclusively to this task." It was the only public statement by Putin about the crisis until one day after its bloody end. In protest, several people at the scene raised signs reading: "Putin! Release our children! Meet their demands!" and "Putin! There are at least 800 hostages!" The locals also said they wouldn't allow any storming or "poisoning of their children" (a clear allusion to the Moscow hostage crisis chemical agent).

In the afternoon, the gunmen allowed the former President of Ingushetia and retired Soviet Army general, Ruslan Aushev, to enter the school building and released 26 hostages personally to him (11 nursing women and 15 children).] The Russian public appeared to be generally supportive of increased security measures. A September 16, 2004, Levada-Center poll found 58% of Russians supporting stricter counter-terrorism laws and the death penalty for terrorism, while 33% would support banning all Chechens from entering Russian cities. []

It is not known how many members of Russia's elite special forces died in the fighting, as official figures ranged from 11 through 12 [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article559816.ece Beslan mothers tell Putin: stay away] , "The Times", August 28, 2005] and 16 (seven "Alfa" and nine "Vympel") to more than 20 killed. There are only 10 names on the special forces monument in Beslan. [ [http://news.rin.ru/eng/news///9303/2// Monument to special forces and rescuers unveiled in Beslan] , NEWS.rin.ru, September 2, 2006] The fatalities included all three commanders of the assault group: Colonel Oleg Ilyin and Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Ratzumovsky of "Vympel", and Major Alexander Petrov of "Alfa". [] [ru icon cite web|date=October 4, 2004|url=http://www.regnum.ru/news/335197.html|title=Names of the Arabian attackers in Beslan released|work= [http://www.online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?direction=re&autotranslate=on&transliterate=on&url=http://www.regnum.ru/news/335197.html Machine translation] |accessdate=2006-07-28] The al-Qaeda involvement claims were not repeated since.

According to the Russian government, the following people were planners and financiers of the attack:
* Shamil Basayev - Chechen national, took ultimate responsibility for the attack, died in Ingushetia in July 2006.
* Kamel Rabat Bouralha - British-Algerian suspected of organizing the attack, detained in Chechnya in September 2004.
* Abu Umar al-Saif - Saudi national and accused financer, [ [http://www.jamestown.org/print_friendly.php?volume_id=409&issue_id=3567&article_id=2370604 Abu Omar reportedly killed] , Jamestown Foundation, 15 December 2005] died in Dagestan in December 2005.
* Abu Zaid - Kuwaiti national and accused organizer, died in Ingushetia in February 2005.

In November 2004, 28-year-old Akhmed Merzhoyev and 16-year-old Marina Korigova of Sagopshi, Ingushetia, were arrested by the Russian authorities in connection with Beslan. Merzhoyev was charged with providing food and equipment to the hostage-takers, and Korigova with having possession of a phone that Tsechoyev had phoned multiple times. [ [http://www.elitestv.com/pub/2004/Nov/EEN419d03f1b16c5.html Two Arrested in Russia for School Hostage Situation] , EliteTV.com, November 2004] Korigova was released when her defence attorney showed that she was given the phone by an acquaintance after the crisis. [ [http://www.watchdog.cz/?show=000000-000008-000001-000352&lang=1 Girl suspected of links with Beslan terrorists released] , Prague Watchdog, December 2, 2004]

Motives and demands

Russian negotiators say the attackers never explicitly stated their demands, although they did have notes handwritten by one of the hostages on a school notebook, in which they spelled out demands of full troop withdrawal from Chechnya and recognition of Chechen independence. The hostage-takers in Beslan were reported to have made the following demands:

* Withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya and independence for Chechnya.
* Presence of the following people in the school:
** Aleksander Dzasokhov, president of North Ossetia,
** Murat Zyazikov, president of Ingushetia,
** Ruslan Aushev, former president of Ingushetia,
** Leonid Roshal, a pediatrician with connections to the FSB.

Alternatively, instead of Roshal and Aushev, the hostage takers named Vladimir Rushailo and Alu Alkhanov, pro-Moscow President of Chechnya. Dzasokhov and Zyazikov did not come, while Aushev entered the school and negotiated the release of 26 hostages. Dzasokhov claimed that "a very high-ranking general from the Interior Ministry said, 'I have received orders to arrest you if you try to go'". Zyazikov, it was said later, was "sick". [http://fairuse.1accesshost.com/news2/latimes298.html Critics Detail Missteps in School Crisis] , "The New York Times", September 17, 2004]

Aslakhanov said that the guerrillas also demanded the release of some 28 to 30 mostly Ingush insurgents jailed after the June raids in Ingushetia.

The 1 September 11:00-11:30 letter sent along with a hostage ER doctor: [ru icon cite web|date=November 29, 2004|url=http://2004.novayagazeta.ru/nomer/2004/88n/n88n-s28.shtml|title=Interview with hostage ER doctor from SNO|work= [http://www.online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?lang=en&direction=re&template=General&transliterate=on&autotranslate=on&url=http://2004.novayagazeta.ru/nomer/2004/88n/n88n-s28.shtml Machine translation] |publisher="Novaya Gazeta"|accessdate=2006-07-29] (The case papers of the Nur-Pashi Kulayev's criminal trial. File pages 196-198, the vetting protocol. Cited at the trial session January 19, 2006. [ru icon cite web|date=November 29, 2004|url=http://pravdabeslana.ru/zapiska.htm|title=Full text and copies of notes send by terrorists|work= [http://www.online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?lang=en&direction=re&template=General&transliterate=on&autotranslate=on&url=http://pravdabeslana.ru/zapiska.htm Machine translation] |publisher=pravdabeslana.ru|accessdate=2006-07-29] )

8-928-738-33-374
We request the republic's president Dzasokhov, the president of Ingushetia Ziazikov, the children's doctor Rashailo for negotiations. If anyone of us is killed, we'll shoot 50 people. If anyone of us is wounded, we'll kill 20 people. If 5 of us are killed, we'll blow up everything. If the light, communication are cut off for a minute, we'll shoot 10 people.

The telephone number according to pravdabeslana.ru; the federal committee reported 8-928-728-33-74. The hostage who was made to write the note misspelled doctor Roshal's name.

The 1 September 16:00-16:30 letter brought by the same female hostage: According to the federal committee report this note contained a corrected phone number (ending with 47) and addition of Aushev to the list of requested persons.

The 2 September 16:45 letter sent along with Ruslan Aushev: (A note hand-written on a quad ruling notebook sheet sized 32 by 20 cm. Source: ibidem. Pages 189-192, the vetting protocol. Pages 193-194, a photocopy of this note.)

From Allah's slave Shamil Basayev to President Putin.
Vladimir Putin, it wasn't you who started this war. But you can finish it if you have enough courage and determination of de Gaulle. We offer you a sensible peace based on mutual benefit by the principle—independence in exchange for security. In case of troops withdrawal and acknowledgement of independence of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, we are obliged not to make any political, military, or economic treaties with anyone against Russia, not to accommodate foreign military bases on our territory even temporarily, not to support and not to finance groups or organizations carrying out a military struggle against RF, to be present in the united ruble zone, to enter CIS. Besides, we can sign a treaty even though a neutral state status is more acceptable to us. We can also guarantee a renunciation of armed struggle against RF by all Muslims of Russia for at least 10 to 15 years under condition of freedom of faith. We are not related to the apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, but we can take responsibility for this in an acceptable way.
The Chechen people is leading a nation-liberating struggle for its freedom and independence, for its self-protection rather than for destruction or humiliation of Russia. We offer you peace, but the choice is yours.
Allahu Akbar
Signature
30 August

Later, Basayev said there was also an alternative option: if President Putin submitted a letter of resignation, the captors would "release all the children and go back to Chechnya with others."

Hostage takers

According to the official version of events, 32 attackers participated directly, one of whom was taken alive while the rest were killed. The number and identity of attackers remains a controversial topic, fueled by the often contradictory government statements and official documents. The September 3-4 government statements said total of 26-27 militants were killed during the siege. At least four militants, including two women, died prior to the storming.

Many of the surviving hostages and eyewitnesses claim there were many more attackers, some of whom may have escaped. It was also claimed or alleged that three hostage takers were captured alive, including the leader Vladimir Khodov and a female militant. [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20041109/ai_n12822067 Beslan hostage-takers were allowed to flee, soldier says] , "The Independent", November 9, 2004] Witness testimonies during the Kulayev trial involved the reported presence a number of appareantly Slavic and unaccented Russian- and "perfect" Ossetian-speaking individuals among the hostage-takers who were not seen among the bodies of the militants killed during the assault by Russian security forces and the witnesses said they were not seen by the third and final day of the crisis at all. Those mysterious men (also a woman according to one testimony) included a red-bearded man who was reportedly issuing orders even to the terrorists' leaders and whom they were forbidden to look at (possibly the man called "Fantomas", an ethnic Russian bodyguard to Shamil Basayev). [ [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,1297633,00.html When hell came calling at Beslan's School No 1] , "The Guardian", September 5, 2004]

*Kesayev Report (2005) estimated that about 50 fighters took part in the siege, based on witness accounts and the number of weapons left at the scene.
*Savelyev Report (September 2006) said there were from 58 to 76 hostage takers, of which many managed to escape by slipping past the cordon around the school.
*Torshin Report (December 2006) determined that 34 militants were involved, of which 32 entered the school and 31 died there, and says the two accomplices remain at large (one being Yunus Matsiyev, a bodyguard of Basayev).

According to Basayev, "Thirty-three mujahideen took part in Nord-West. Two of them were women. We prepared four [women] but I sent two of them to Moscow on August 24. They then boarded the two airplanes that blew up. In the group there were 12 Chechen men, two Chechen women, nine Ingush, three Russians, two Arabs, two Ossetians, one Tartar, one Kabardinian and one Guran. The Gurans are a people who live near Lake Baikal who are practically Russified."

Basayev further said an FSB agent (Khodov) had been sent undercover to the rebels to persuade them to carry out an attack on a target in North Ossetia's capital, Vladikavkaz, and that the group was allowed to enter the region with ease, because the FSB planned to capture them at their destination in Vladikavkaz. He also claimed that an unnamed attacker had survived the siege and managed to escape.

Identities

On September 6 2004, the name and identity of seven of the assailants became known, after forensic work over the weekend and interviews with surviving hostages and a captured assailant. (The forensic tests also established that 21 of the hostage-takers took heroin as well as morphine in a normally fatal amount; [cite news|date=December 28, 2005|url=http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/newstext/engnews/id/912681.html|title=Federal commission delivers report on Beslan|publisher=Memorial|accessdate=2006-07-29] the investigation cited the use of drugs as a reason for the militants’ ability to continue fighting despite being badly wounded and presumably in great pain.) In November 2004, Russian officials announced that 27 of the 32 attackers had been identified. However, in September 2005, the lead prosecutor against Nur-Pashi Kulayev stated that only 22 of the 32 bodies had been identified, [cite news|date=September 12, 2004 |title=Russian Prosecutor Says International Terrorists Planned Beslan|publisher=Mosnews|accessdate=2006-07-29] leading to further confusion over which identities have been confirmed.

Majority of the suspects, aged 20-35, were identified as the Ingush people or residents of Ingushetia. At least five of the suspected attackers were declared being dead by Russian authorities before the seizure, while eight were known of being previously arrested and then released, in some cases shortly before the Beslan attack.

;Male terrorists

The male hostage-takers were tentatively identified by the Russian government as:

* Khizir-Ali Akhmedov (30) - A native of Chechnya, from Bilto-Yurt.
* Rustam Atayev (25) - Native of Psedkah, Ingushetia, ethnic Chechen. His 12-year-old brother was murdered in 2002 by unidentified men in camouflage along with two other boys in Grozny. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article561674.ece Our children suffered too, say families of the killers] , by Sebastian Smith, "The Times", September 2, 2005] [ru icon [http://www.topnews.ru/news_id_12951.html Опубликованы фотографии террористов, захвативших школу в Беслане] ]
* Rizvan Vakhitovich Barchashvili (26) - Native of Nesterovskaya, a Cossack village in Ingushetia. Had changed his name to Aldzbekov. Body identified by DNA testing. [ru icon [http://www.council.gov.ru/print/inf_ps/chronicle/2005/11/item3913.html О работе Парламентской комиссии (материалы средств массовой информации)] , Security Council of Russia, November 2005]
* Usman Magomedovich Aushev (33) - Ingush from Ekazhevo, Ingushetia. ru icon [http://www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2007/51/12.html В распоряжении «Новой» — прижизненные фотографии бесланских террористов. Публикуются впервые] , "Novaya Gazeta", 2005] ru icon [http://www.caucasica.org/chrono/detail.php?ID=1040 Террористическая война против России (хронология терактов в России)] ]
* Yacine Benalia (35) - A British-Algerian who had already been reported killed earlier.
* Adam Magomed-Khasanovich Iliyev (20) - An Ingush from Malgobek, Ingushetia. Iliyev was arrested a year before for illegal arms possession and then released.
* Ibragim Magomedovich Dzortov (28) - An Ingush from Nazran, Ingushetia.
* Ilnur Gainullin (23) - An ethnic Tatar and medical school graduate "from a good family" in Moscow. [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2008/01/09/007.html Our Native Wiesenthal] "The Moscow Times", January 9, 2008]
* Adilgirey Beksultanovich Gatagazhev (29) - An Ingush from Sagopshi, Ingushetia.
* Sultan Kamurzayev (27) - A Chechen from Kazakhstan. Other sources say he's from Nazran, Ingushetia, and that he was arrested in 2000 as a rebel fighter and then released.
* Magomed Khochubarov (21) - An Ingush from Nazran. Native of Surkhakhi, Ingushetia, had a conviction for the illegal possession of weapons. Also spelled Magomet. [http://www.da.mod.uk/colleges/csrc/document-listings/russian-chronologies/Chronologies/arussianchronologyjulyseptember/04(30)-part1-mas.pdf Russian Domestic Policy: July-September 2004] British Defence Academy]
* Ruslan Tagirovich Khuchbarov (32), nicknamed "Polkovnik"/Colonel" - An ethnic Ingush and native of Galashki, Ingushetia. Reputed group leader, disputed identity (possibly escaped and at large). Basayev identified him as "Col. Orstkhoyev" ("Polkovnik" means Russian for "Colonel"). Reportedly referred to by the hostage-takers also as Ali, he had led the negotiations on behalf of the hostage takers. Initially reported to be Ali Taziyev, a former Ingush policeman-turned-rebel who was declared legally dead in 2000; [ [http://archives.tcm.ie/breakingnews/2006/05/18/story259311.asp Beslan judge reads witness testimony on third day of trial] , May 18, 2006] [ [http://www.kommersant.com/page.asp?id=505415 The Investigation is Hitting it on the Head] , "Kommersant", September 16, 2004] [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/may/22/russia.tomparfitt Beslan militant 'lived to kill again'] , "The Guardian", May 26, 2006] but this was later refuted by the Russian prosecutors. [ [http://www.peaceinthecaucasus.org/reports/Beslan.pdf Beslan: Russia’s 9/11?] ] In the conversations, "Ali" claimed his family was killed by the Russians in Chechnya. Investigaters alleged this was the same person as Akhmed Yevloyev, an Ingush rebel leader also said to be Ali Taziyev, but those reports were also declared incorrect later. Also spelled Khochubarov.
* Vladimir Anatolievich Khodov "Abdullah" (28) - An ethnic Ossetian-Ukrainian from nearby Elkhotovo, former pupil of the Beslan SNO and one of the reputed leaders. Some of the survivors described him as the scariest and most aggressive of all the militants.Dispatches, "Beslan", Channel 4 documentary, 2005.] Khodov converted to Islam while in prison. He was previously arrested for rape and then released and was wanted for a series of bomb attacks in Vladikavkaz but he lived openly in his hometown for more than a month before the attack. Basayev has since said Khodov was a FSB double agent code-named "Putnik" ("Traveller") sent to infiltrate the rebel movement. [ [http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/newstext/engnews/id/851521.html Basayev makes major statement] , Memorial, 30/8/2005] (Not to confuse with the head of Beslan administration, also named Vladimir Khodov.)
* Iznaur Kodzoyev - An Ingush from Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, father of five children. [ [http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/90/361/14075_terrorists.html Special services believe the terrorists had an accomplice in Beslan] , Pravda.ru, 06.09.2004] His cousin claimed he saw him in Kantyshevo on the second day of the hostage crisis. [ [http://www.actiegroeptsjetsjenie.org/links/actualiteiten_links/artikels%20gijzeling%20school/school%2062.html Confusion Surrounds Beslan Band] ] In August 2005 the Russian forces in Igushetia killed a man identified as Iznaur Kodzoyev, who they said was one of hostage-takers despite the fact that his body was identified among these killed in Beslan. Kodzoyev was also previously announced by the Russians being dead months before the Beslan crisis. [ [http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0532,mcevers,66640,2.html State of Siege: The terror of daily life in Beslan] , "The Village Voice", August 5th, 2005] [http://www.tharwaproject.com/node/437 Confusion surrounds Beslan band] , Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 2004-09-22]
* Khan-Pashi Kulayev (31) - A Chechen from Engenoi. One-armed older brother of Nur-Pashi and a former bodyguard of Basayev. He was released from the Russian prison before the attack. [ [http://www.russiajournal.com/printable/node/18394 School hostage-takers released from prison] , "Russia Journal", September 7, 2004]
* Nur-Pashi Kulayev (24) - A Chechen from Engenoi recruited to help his brother Han-Pashi despite (as he maintained) being recently admitted into pro-Moscow forces of Ramzan Kadyrov ("Kadyrovtsy"). Captured in Beslan and sentenced to life in prison.
* Adam Kushtov (17) - An Ingush who fled the 1992 ethnic cleansing in North Ossetia. [http://www.ridgway.pitt.edu/docs/working_papers/BeslanFINALreport12-3-07.pdf Terror at Beslan: A Chronicle of On-going Tragedy and a Government’s Failed Response] , Ridgway.Pitt.edu, 12 March 2007]
* Abdul-Azim Labazanov (31) - A Chechen born in Kazakhstan. Initially fought on the federal side in the First Chechen War before defecting to Dokka Umarov's group.
* Osman Larussi (35) - A British-Algerian, who had already been reported killed earlier.cite news|date=October 4, 2004|url=http://www.res.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=9844&nav1=1&nav2=2&nav3=2|title=Algerian-born UK man linked to Beslan attack|publisher=Russian and Eurasian Security|accessdate=2006-07-29]
* Arsen Merzhoyev (25) - A native of Engenoi, Chechnya. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3659936.stm Beslan rogues gallery published] , BBC News, 15 September, 2004]
* Adam Akhmedovich Poshev (22) - An Ingush from Malgobek, Ingushetia.
* Mayrbek Said-Aliyevich Shaybekhanov (25) - A Chechen from Engenoi who lived in Psedakh, Ingushetia. He was arrested in Ingushetia and then released shortly before the school attack. Also spelled Mairbek Shebikhanov. [cite news|url=http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2004/11/19/011.html |title=Girl, 16, Held in Beslan Investigation |publisher="The Moscow Times"|accessdate=2006-07-29] [ [http://www.commersant.com/p-1695/r_500/Basaev_Directed_the_Seizure_by_Phone/ Basaev Directed the Seizure by Phone] , "Kommersant", September 7, 2004]
* Muslim Said-Aliyevich Shaybekhanov (20) - A Chechen from Engenoi who lived in Psedakh, Ingushetia. [ru icon [http://www.regnum.ru/news/356312.html Неопознанными остаются три жертвы теракта в Беслане (Северная Осетия)] ]
* Buran Tetradze (31) - A Georgian, native of Rustavi in Georgia. His identity/existence was refuted by security minister of Georgia.
* Issa Torshkhoyev (26) - An Ingush native of Malgobek, Ingushetia. He was wanted since the shootout in 2003 when his home was raided by the police. His family asserted that his interest in joining the Chechen militant movement was incited when Torshkhoyev witnessed five of his close friends being killed by Russian security forces during the same raid. His father, who was brought in to identify his body, reportedly claimed that the body was not that of his son. Also spelled Isa/Torshkhoev. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,2763,1315930,00.html Tracing a tragedy] , "The Guardian", September 30, 2004]
* Issa Zhumaldinovich Tarshkhoyev (23) - An Ingush from Malgobek, Ingushetia. He was arrested for armed robbery in 1999 but later released. [ [http://www.peaceinthecaucasus.org/reports/Beslan.pdf Beslan: Russia’s 9/11?] ]
* Bei-Alla Tsechoyev (31) - An Ingush, brother of Musa, had a prior conviction for possessing illegal firearms. Also spelled Bay/Ala.
* Musa Tsechoyev (35) - An Ingush, brother of Bei-Alla. Native of Sagopshi, Ingushetia, owned the GAZ-66 truck that drove the hostage-takers to the school.
* Timur Magomedovich Tsokiyev (31) - An Ingush from Sagopshi, Ingushetia. Also spelled Tsokiev.
* Aslan Akhmedovich Yaryzhev (22) - An Ingush from Malgobek, Ingushetia.

;Female terrorists

In April 2005, the identity of the "shahidka" female militants was revealed:

* Roza Nagayeva (30) - A Chechen woman from the village of Kirov-Yurt in Chechnya's Vedensky District, sister of Amnat Nagayeva, who is suspected of being the suicide bomber having blown up one of the two Russian airliners brought down on August 24, 2004. Roza Nagayeva has previously been named as having carried out the bombing of Moscow's Rizhskaya metro station on August 31, 2004.
* Mairam Taburova (27) - A Chechen woman from the village of Mair-Tub in Chechnya's Shalinsky District. Also spelled Maryam.
* Khaula Nazirov (45) - A woman from Grozny, her husband had supposedly been tortured to death by Russian security forces. Her 18-year-old son and her 16-year-old daughter, along with their cousins, were reportedly killed a year earlier when Russian forces bombed a school in Chechnya.

Official investigations and trials

Kulayev's interrogation and trial

The captured terrorist, 24-year-old Nur-Pashi Kulayev, born in Chechnya, was identified by former hostages. The state-controlled Channel One showed fragments of his interrogation. Kulayev said the group was led by a Chechnya-born terrorist nicknamed "Polkovnik" and by the North Ossetia native Vladimir Khodov. According to Kulayev, "Polkovnik" shot another terrorist and detonated two female suicide bombers because they objected to capturing children. [ [http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=401&issue_id=3063&article_id=2368474 Ingush ex-cop reportedly among hostage-takers] , The Jamestown Foundation, September 8, 2004]

In May 2005, Kulayev was a defendant in a court in the republic of North Ossetia. He was charged with murder, terrorism, kidnapping, and other crimes and pleaded guilty on seven of the counts; [cite news|date=May 18, 2006|url=http://english.pravda.ru/accidents/21/96/382/15488_beslan.html|title=Victims of Beslan hostage crisis demand death penalty to the only arrested terrorist|publisher=pravda.ru|accessdate=2006-07-29] many former hostages denounced the trial as a " [smoke screen" and "farce". Some of the relatives of the victims, who used the trial in their attempts to accuse the authorities, even called for a pardon for Kulayev so he can speak freely about what happened. The director of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, was summoned to give evidence, but did not attend. Ten days later, on May 26 2006, Nur-Pashi Kulayev was sentenced to life in prison; no appeal was filed by either the defendant or prosecutor. [cite news|date=May 26, 2006|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5018928.stm|title=Beslan attacker jailed for life|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2006-07-29] Kulayev later disappeared in the Russian prison system. [ [http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/newstext/engnews/id/1168540.html Head of Beslan commission to check information on Kulaev's death] , Memorial, January 5, 2007] After questions about whether Kulayev had been killed in prison, Russian government officials confirmed that he was alive and awaiting the start of his sentence. [ [http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/newstext/engnews/id/1169480.html FPES refutes information on Kulaev's death] , January 6, 2007]

Investigation by federal prosecutors

Family members of the victims of the attacks have accused the security forces of incompetence, and have demanded that authorities be held accountable. Putin personally promised to Mothers of Beslan it would be an "objective investigation". On December 26, 2005, Russian prosecutors investigating the siege on the school declared that authorities had made no mistakes whatsoever. [cite news|date=December 26, 2005|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4561052.stm|title='No mistakes', Beslan report says|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2006-07-29]

Torshin's parliamentary commission

At a press conference with foreign journalists on September 6, 2004, Vladimir Putin rejected the prospect of an open public inquiry, but cautiously agreed with an idea of a parliamentary investigation led by the Duma. He warned, though, that the latter might turn into a "political show". [cite web
date=2004-09-08
url=http://www.kremlin.ru/text/publications/2004/09/76490.shtml
title=Putin does not see a link between Chechnya and Beslan
publisher=Nezavisimaya Gazeta, cited by kremlin.ru
accessdate=2007-02-20
work= [http://www.online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?direction=re&autotranslate=on&transliterate=on&url=http://www.kremlin.ru/text/publications/2004/09/76490.shtml Machine translation]
] [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/07/russia.chechnya Angry Putin rejects public Beslan inquiry] , "The Guardian", September 7 2004] In November 2004, the Interfax news agency reported Alexander Torshin, head of the parliamentary commission, as saying that there was evidence of involvement by "a foreign intelligence agency;" he declined to say which. [cite web
date=2004-11-27
url=http://www.newsru.com/russia/27nov2004/torshin.html
title=Foreign intelligence involved in Beslan school capture
publisher=Interfax, cited by Newsru
accessdate=2007-02-20
work= [http://www.online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?direction=re&autotranslate=on&transliterate=on&url=http://www.newsru.com/russia/27nov2004/torshin.html Machine translation]
]

On December 22, 2006, the Russian parliamentary commission ended their investigation into the incident. They concluded that the number of gunmen who stormed the school was 32 and laid much blame on the North Ossetian police, stating that there was a severe shortcoming in security measures. Torshin also criticized authorities for under-reporting the number of hostages involved. [http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2005/12/28/beslan051228.html Beefed-up security could have prevented Beslan siege, probe head says] , CBC News, December 28, 2005] In addition, the commission said the attack on the school was premeditated by Chechen rebel leadership including Aslan Maskhadov. In another controversial move, the commission claimed that the shoot-out that ended the siege was instigated by the hostage takers, not security forces. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6202735.stm Rebels blamed for Beslan deaths] , BBC News, 22 December 2006] About the "grounded" decision to use flamethowers, Torshin said that "international law does not prohibit using them against terrorists." [http://www.borrull.org/e/noticia.php?id=55413&id2=4966 FSB flamethrowers caused no fire at Beslan school] , RIA Novosti, 28/ 12/ 2005] Ella Kesayeva, an activist who leads Beslan support group, suggested that the report was meant as a signal that Putin and his circle were no longer interested in having a discussion about crisis.

On August 28, 2006, Yuri Savelyev, Russian MP and member of the official parliamentary inquiry panel, publicized his own report which he said is proving that Russian forces deliberately stormed the school using maximum force. According to Savelyev, a weapons and explosives expert, special forces fired rocket-propelled grenades without warning as a prelude to an armed assault, ignoring apparently ongoing negotiations. In February 2007, two members of the commission (Savelyev and Yuri Ivanov) denounced the investigation as a cover-up, and the Kremlin's official version of events as fabricated. They refused to sign off on the Torshin's report.

Trials of the local police officials

Three local policemen of the Pravoberezhny District ROVD (district militsiya unit) were the only officials who put on trial over the massacre, accused of failing to stop gunmen seizing the school and charged with negligence. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3678066.stm Hundreds still missing in Beslan] , BBC News, 21 September, 2004] On May 30, 2007, Pravoberezhny Court's judge granted an amnesty to them. In response, a group of dozens local women then ransacked the courtroom, smashing windows, overturning furniture and tearing down a Russian flag. Victims' groups said the trial had been a whitewash designed to protect their superiors from blame. [ [http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL2973589920070529 Amnesty granted to Beslan siege police] , Reuters, May 29, 2007] The victims of the Beslan terror act said they are going to appeal against the court judgement. [ [http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/newstext/engnews/id/1188208.html Amnesty act applied to Beslan militiamen will be appealed against] , Memorial, May 30, 2007]

In June 2007, a court in Kabardino-Balkaria charged two Malgobeksky District ROVD police officials (Mukhazhir Yevloyev and Akhmed Kotiyev) with negligence, accusing them of failing to prevent the attackers from setting up their training and staging camp in Ingushetia. The two pleaded innocent, the court said. [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/06/29/013.html Beslan Mothers Sue in Strasbourg] , "The Moscow Times", June 29, 2007] The acquittal verdict came in October 2007, and was upheld by the Supreme Court of Ingushetia in March 2008. The victims said they are going to appeal against the decision to the European Court for Human Rights. [ [http://eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/engnews/id/1209098.html Supreme Court upholds acquittal of Ingush militiamen on Beslan events] , Caucasian Knot, 6/3/2008]

Criticism of the Russian government

Allegations of incompetence and rights violations

The handling of the siege by Vladimir Putin's administration was criticized by a number of observers and grassroots organizations, amongst them the Mothers of Beslan and Voice of Beslan groups. [ [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/05/04/011.html Beslan Mothers Stay In Court All Night] "The Moscow Times", May 4, 2007] Soon after the crisis, the independent MP Vladimir Ryzhkov blamed "the top leadership". Initially, the European Union also criticized the response. [cite news|date=September 5, 2004|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,1297703,00.html|title=EU doubts shatter unity|publisher="The Guardian"|accessdate=2006-07-31]

Criticism, including by Beslan residents (the survivors and the relatives of the victims), centered on the allegations that the storming of the school was ruthless, citing the confirmed [ [http://www.pravdabeslana.ru/pass.htm The sensational statement of the representative of public prosecutor: "Tanks and flame throwers were used during the storm"] , "Novaya Gazeta" 07.04.2005 (Pravda Beslana translation/mirror)] use of heavy weapons, such as tanks and "Shmel" flamethrowers (described by a source associated with the U.S. military as "just about the most vicious weapon you can imagine - igniting the air, sucking the oxygen out of an enclosed area and creating a massive pressure wave crushing anything unfortunate enough to have lived through the conflagration"). [ [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2005/04/06/003.html Beslan Residents Say Forces Used Grenades] , "The Moscow Times", April 6, 2005] [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-beslan_nu_rodriguezjan18,1,1649328,full.story Beslan moms blame Putin, face charges] , "Chicago Tribune", January 18, 2008] Pavel Felgenhauer has gone further and accused the government of also firing rockets from an Mi-24 attack helicopter, [ [http://www.kolumbus.fi/suomi-tshetshenia-seura/howthe.htm How The School Was Stormed] , "Novaya Gazeta", 7 October, 2004] a claim that the authorities flatly deny. Some human rights activists claim that at least 80 percent of the hostages were killed by indiscriminate Russian fire. According to Felgenhauer, "it was not a hostage rescue operation... but an army operation aimed at wiping out the terrorists." David Satter of the Hudson Institute said the incident "presents a chilling portrait of the Russian leadership and its total disregard for human life".

The provincial government and police were criticized by the locals for having allowed the attack to take place, especially since police roadblocks on the way to Beslan were removed shortly before the hostage taking. [ [http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/newstext/engnews/id/828241.html Beslan victims talk to Kulayev] , Memorial, 7 July 2005] Many blamed rampant corruption allowing militants to simply bribe their way through the checkpoints (in fact, this was even what they openly boasted to their hostages), [ [http://iwpr.net/?p=crs&s=f&o=243899&apc_state=henicrs2005 North Ossetia: Quit While You’re Behind] , IWPR, 9 June 2005] while others say the militants used the back roads used by smugglers in collusion with police. [ [http://www.slate.com/id/2133395/entry/2133396/ So Much for Glasnost] , "Slate", December 28, 2005] Yulia Latynina alleged that Major Gurazhev was captured after he approached the militants' truck to demand a bribe for what he thought was an oil-smuggling operation. [ [http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=19941 Too Many Exceptions to Be a Rule] , "The St. Petersburg Times", December 29, 2006] It was also alleged the federal police knew of the time and place of the planned attack; according to internal police documents obtained by "Novaya Gazeta", the Moscow MVD knew about the hostage taking four hours in advance, having learned this from a militant captured in Chechnya. [ [http://www.moscowtimes.ru/stories/2007/06/20/011.html Police Under Fire for Beslan] , "The Moscow Times", June 20, 2007]

Critics also charged that the authorities did not organize the siege properly, including failing to keep the scene secure from entry by civilians, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3634114.stm Civilians 'began siege shooting'] BBC News, 7 September, 2004] while the emergency services were not prepared during the 52 hours of the crisis. The Russian government has been also heavily criticized by many of the local people who, days and even months after the siege, did not know whether their children were alive or dead (the hospitals were isolated from the outside world). Two months after the crisis, human remains and indentity documents were found by a local driver Muran Katsanov in the garbage landfill at the outskirts of Beslan; the discovery prompted further outrage. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article415412.ece Victims of Beslan siege found in a rubbish dump] , "The Times", February 26, 2005] [ [http://www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2369369 New remains discovered in Beslan: Incompetence or crime?] , The Jamestown Foundation, March 4, 2005]

In addition, there were serious accusations that federal officials had not earnestly tried to negotiate with the attackers (including the alleged threat from Moscow to arrest President Dzasokhov if he came to negotiate) and deliberately provided incorrect and inconsistent reports of the situation to the media (detailed below).

Independent reports

The report by Yuri Savelyev, a dissenting parliamentary investigator and one of Russia's leading missile scientists, [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E7DD1E38F933A25756C0A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all Russian's Links to Iran Offer a Case Study in Arms Leak] , "The New York Times", May 10, 2000] blamed the responsibility for the final massacre on actions of the Russian forces and the highest-placed officials in the federal government. Savelyev's 2006 report, devoting 280 pages to determining responsibility for the initial blast, concludes that the authorities decided to storm the school building, but wanted to create the impression they were acting in response to actions taken by the hostage takers. These allegations are discussed in more detail elsewhere in the article. Savelyev, the only expert on the physics of combustion on the commission, accused Torshin of "deliberate falsification". [http://www.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=4306&pubType=HI_Articles The Aftermath of Beslan] , Hudson Institute, November 15, 2006 ]

A separate public inquiry by the North Ossetian parliament (headed by Kesayev) concluded on November 29, 2005, that both local and federal law enforcement agencies and officials mishandled the situation. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2005/06/28/BeslanProbe_050628.html Russian military, politicians handled Beslan siege poorly: inquiry head] , CBC News, June 28, 2005]

European Court complaint

On June 26, 2007, 89 relatives of victims have lodged a joint complaint against Russia with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The applicants say their rights were violated both during the hostage-taking and the trials that followed. [ [http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/06/9866BF41-7C46-4754-8E30-09D9514C79F0.html Relatives Of Beslan Victims Apply To European Court] , RFE/RL, June 26, 2007] ECHR was flooded by a complaints against Russia, many of them from Chechnya, what the Human Rights Watch called "the last hope for the victims". [ [http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/06/09/russia19059.htm Chechnya: European Court Last Hope for Victims; France, EU, Should Use Rulings to End Abuses] , Human Rights Watch, June 9, 2008]

Disinformation and suppression of information

According to a poll by Levada-Center conducted a week after Beslan crisis, 83% of polled Russians believed that the government was hiding at least a part of the truth about the Beslan events from them. [ru icon cite news|date=September 16, 2004 |title=What do you think? Are the authorities truthful about the events of the capture and freeing of the hostages of Beslan? |accessdate=2006-07-29]

Russian television reporting and false information

In opposition to the coverage on foreign television news channels (such as CNN and the BBC), the crisis was not broadcasted live by the state-owned all three major Russian television networks. The two main state-owned broadcasters, Channel One and Rossiya, did not even interrupt their regular programming following the school seizure. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2004/09/07/dl0702.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/09/07/ixportal.html Putin's media censorship] , "The Telegraph, 07/09/2004] After explosions and gunfire started on the third day, NTV Russia (the main television channel owned by Gazprom) shifted away from the scenes of mayhem to broadcast a World War II soap opera.

According to the poll by "Ekho Moskvy" radio station, 92% of the people polled said that Russian TV channels concealed parts of information.

Russian state-controlled television only reported official information about the number of hostages during the course of the crisis. The number of 354 people was persistently given, as initially stated by Lev Dzugayev, the press secretary of President Dzasokhov (after the crisis, Dzugayev was promoted and made Minister for Culture and Mass Communications [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20050131/ai_n9693451 Backslash in Beslan] , "The Independent", January 31, 2005 ] ) and Valery Andreyev, the chief of the republican FSB (though it was later claimed that Dzugayev only disseminated information given to him by "Russian presidential staff who were located in Beslan from September 1"). Torshin laid the blame squarely at Andreyev, for whom he reserved special scorn. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20051229/ai_n15983980 Beslan siege investigation chief points finger] , "The Independent", Dec 29, 2005 ]

This deliberately false figure had grave consequences for the treatment of the hostages by their angered captos (hostage-takers were even reported saying "Maybe we should kill enough of you to get down to that number") and contributed to the declaration of "hunger strike". One inquiry has suggested that it may have prompted the militants to kill a group of male hostages who were shot on the first day. The government disinformation also sparked the incidents of violence by the local residents, aware of the real numbers, against the members of Russian and foreign media.cite paper
author = Miklós Haraszti
title = Report on Russian media coverage of the Beslan tragedy: Access to information and journalists' working conditions
version =
publisher = Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
date = 2004-09-16
url = http://www.osce.org/documents/rfm/2004/09/3586_en.pdf
format = PDF
accessdate =
]

On September 8, 2004, several leading Russian and international human rights organizations – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Memorial and Moscow Helsinki Group – issued a joint statement in which they pointed out the responsibility that Russian authorities bore in disseminating false information:

"We are also seriously concerned with the fact that authorities concealed the true scale of the crisis by, "inter alia", misinforming Russian society about the number of hostages. We call on Russian authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances of the Beslan events which should include an examination of how authorities informed the whole society and the families of the hostages. We call on making the results of such an investigation public."

The Moscow daily "Moskovskiy Komsomolets" run a rubric headlined Chronicle of Lies, detailing various initial reports put out by government officials about the hostage taking, which later turned out to be false.

Incidents involving Russian and foreign journalists

In several incidents reporters critical of the Russian government could not get to Beslan during the crisis. They included Andrey Babitsky, a Russian journalist with the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who was indicted on hooliganism after a brawl with two men who picked a fight with him in the Moscow Vnukovo Airport and sentenced to a 15-day arrest. [ [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2004/09/06/012-full.html 2 Reporters Unable to Travel to Beslan] "The Moscow Times", September 6, 2004] [ [http://www.online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?lang=en&direction=re&autotranslate=on&transliterate=on&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.svoboda.org%2Fll%2Ffs%2F0904%2Fll.090304-3.asp On the Moscow Vnukovo airport conflict] , Radio Free Europe, September 3, 2004. Machine-translated by www.online-translator.com] The late "Novaya Gazeta" journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who had negotiated during the 2002 Moscow siege, was twice prevented by the authorities from boarding a flight. When she eventually succeeded, she fell into a coma after being poisoned aboard an airplane bound to Rostov-on-Don. [ [http://www.kolumbus.fi/suomi-tshetshenia-seura/what.htm On Anna Politkovskaya falling into a coma] , "Novaya Gazeta", September 4, 2004. Anonymous translation]

According to the report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), several correspondents were detained in Beslan (including Russians Anna Gorbatova and Oksana Semyonova from "Novye Izvestia", Madina Shavlokhova from "Moskovskiy Komsomolets", Elena Milashina from "Novaya Gazeta", and Simon Ostrovskiy from "The Moscow Times"). Several foreign journalists were also briefly detained, including a group of journalists from Polish "Gazeta Wyborcza", French "Libération" and British "The Guardian". The chief of the Moscow bureau of the Arab TV channel Al Jazeera was framed into the possession of a round of ammunition at the airfield in Mineralnye Vody.

Many foreign journalists were exposed to pressure from the security forces and the materials were confiscated from TV crews from ZDF and ARD (Germany), AP Television News (USA), and Rustavi 2 (Georgia). The crew of Rustavi 2 was arrested; the Georgian Minister of Health said that the correspondent Nana Lezhava, who had been kept for fives days in the Russian pre-trial detention centers, had been poisoned with dangerous psychotropic drugs (like Politkovskaya, Lezhava passed out after being given a cup of tea). The crew from another Georgian TV channel Mze was expelled from Beslan.

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 September 4, 2004 issue. [cite web|date= September 8 2004|url=http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2004/200409/20040908.html|title=The Current for Show September 8, 2004|publisher=CBC Radio One|accessdate=2007-02-14] 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. [cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/01-izv.pdf|pages=p.1|title=Page 1|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/02-izv.pdf|pages=p.2|title=Page 2|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/03-izv.pdf|pages=p.3|title=Page 3|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/04-izv.pdf|pages=p.4|title=Page 4|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/05-izv.pdf|pages=p.5|title=Page 5|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/06-izv.pdf|pages=p.6|title=Page 6|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/07-izv.pdf|pages=p.7|title=Page 7|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/08-izv.pdf|pages=p.8|title=Page 8|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/09-izv.pdf|pages=p.9|title=Page 9|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/10-izv.pdf|pages=p.10|title=Page 10|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/11-izv.pdf|pages=p.11|title=Page 11|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
cite web|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.izvestia.ru/data/pdf/04-09-2004/12-izv.pdf|pages=p.12|title=Page 12|format=PDF|work=The issue of Izvestia|accessdate=2008-03-07
]

ecret video materials

The video tape made by the terrorists and given to Ruslan Aushev on the second day was declared being "blank" by the government, [ [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,131060,00.html Report: 16 Killed in Russian School Standoff] FOX News, September 2, 2004] even though a fragment was shown on Russian NTV television several days after the crisis. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3636196.stm Russian TV shows school siege terror] , BBC News, 8 September, 2004] ( [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3636196.stm See the video] ) Another fragment of the tape was acquired by media and publicised in January 2005. [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/20/48hours/main668127.shtml New Video Of Beslan School Terror] , CBS, January 21, 2005] [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;sessionid=331DU0BFZTADVQFIQMFCM5OAVCBQYJVC?xml=/news/2005/01/23/wbes23.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/01/23/ixworld.html Terrorist leader laughs in chilling Beslan video] , "The Telegraph", 23 January 2005] ( [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/20/48hours/main668127.shtml See the video] ) Aushev himself did not watch the tape before he gave it away.

In July 2007, the Mothers of Beslan asked the FSB to declassify video and audio archives on Beslan, saying there should be no secrets in the investigation. [ [http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/newstext/engnews/id/1193156.html "Beslan Mothers" ask FSB to declassify video and audio archives on Beslan] , Memorial, July 27, 2007] They didn't receive any answer to this request. [ [http://eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/engnews/id/1194636.html No answer from FSB to request of "Beslan Mothers" to declassify the video archive of the tragedy] , Caucasian Knot, August 14, 2007]

Same month, the Mothers organization have disclosed a video tape they received anonymously, that they said proves Russian security forces started the massacre by firing rocket-propelled grenades on the besieged building. [ [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/7/283ef224-6750-4631-8ae9-e9ae3b053ba6.html Beslan Mothers Say New Video Refutes Official Version] , RFE/RL, July 30, 2007] The film had been kept secret by the authorities for nearly three years, before being officially released by the Mothers on September 4, 2007. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6818114,00.html Video Reopens Debate Over Beslan Attack] , "The Guardian", July 31, 2007] [ [http://www.moscowtimes.ru/stories/2007/09/04/012.html Beslan Mothers Release a Film] , "The Moscow Times", September 4, 2007] The graphic film apparently shows the prosecutors and military experts surveying the unexploded shrapnel-based bombs of the militants and structural damage in the school in Beslan shortly after the massacre. Footage shows a large hole in the wall of the sports hall, with a man saying: "The hole in the wall is not from this [kind of] explosion. Apparently someone fired," adding that many victims bear no sign of shrapnel wounds. Next morning, a uniformed investigator points out that most of the improvised explosive devices in the school did not go off. He then pays close attention to a hole in the floor, which he calls a "puncture of an explosive character". [ [http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/29/1991030.htm Beslan mothers claim truth of siege covered up] , ABC, Jul 29, 2007]

Government response

In general, the criticism was denied by the Russian government. President Vladimir Putin specifically dismissed the foreign criticism as Cold War mentality and said that the West wants to "pull the strings so that Russia won't raise its head."

The Russian government defended the use of tanks and other heavy weaponry, arguing that it was used only after surviving hostages escaped from the school. However, this contradicts the eyewitness accounts, including by the former hostages and reporters. [ [http://www.usatoday.com/news/topstories/2007-07-31-2989316660_x.htm Video reopens debate over Beslan attack] , Associated Press, July 31, 2007] According to the survivors and other witnesses many hostages were seriously wounded and could not possibly escape by themselves, while others or were kept by the militants as human shields and moved through the building. [http://www.markmackinnon.ca/dispatches_beslan.html MARK MacKINNON uncovers the true story of the gruesome hostage-taking at Beslan.] , "The Globe and Mail", September 11, 2004]

Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia Nikolai Shepel, acting as deputy prosecutor at the trial of Kulayev, found no fault with the security forces in handling the hostage crisis: "According to the conclusions of the investigation, the expert commission did not find any violations that could be responsible for the harmful consequences." [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20051228/ai_n15958745 Probe clears handling of Beslan siege] , "The Independent", December 28, 2005] Shepel acknowledged that commandos fired flamethrowers, but said this could not have sparked the fire that caused most of deaths; he also said that the troops did not use "napalm grenades".

To address doubts, Putin launched a Duma parliamentary investigation led by Alexander Torshin, [cite news|date=September 10, 2004|url=http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2004/09/10/putin_beslan040910.html|title=Putin agrees to public inquiry into Beslan siege
publisher=CBC News|accessdate=2006-07-31
] resulting in the report which criticized the federal government only indirectly [ [http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/12/28/news/beslan.php Beslan siege: The blame] , "International Herald Tribune", December 29, 2005] and instead put blame for "a whole number of blunders and shortcomings" on local authorities. [cite news|date=December 29, 2005|url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/28/AR2005122800194.html|title=New Report Puts Blame on Local Officials In Beslan Siege
publisher="Washington Post"|accessdate=2006-07-31
] The findings of the federal and the North Ossetian commissions differed widely in many main aspects. [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/01/7E7550CC-9EA5-43C4-973F-F2CDE65514B9.html Russia: Beslan Reports Compared] , The Jamestown Foundation, January 3, 2007] Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov, sent by Putin in September 2005 to investigate the circumstances, concluded on the 30th of the same month that "the actions of the military personnel were justified, and there are no grounds to open a criminal investigation." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4360106.stm Russian army cleared over Beslan] , BBC News, 20 October 2005]

Also in 2005, previously unreleased documents by the national commission in Moscow were made available to "Der Spiegel"; according to the paper, "instead of calling for self-criticism in the wake of the disaster, the commission recommended the Russian government to crack down harder."

Dismissions and trials

Three local top officials lost their posts in the aftermath of the tragedy: [cite news|date=September 4, 2004|url=http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/europe/09/04/russia.putin/index.html|title=Putin: 'An attack on our country'|publisher=CNN|accessdate=2006-07-31]
*North Ossetian Interior Minister Kazbek Dzantiyev resigned shortly after the crisis, saying that after what happened in Beslan, he "don't have the right to occupy this post as an officer and a man." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3628432.stm Hostage town buries its children] BBC News, 5 September, 2004]
*Valery Andreyev, the chief of the Ossetia's FSB, also submitted his resignation soon after. However, he was later elevated to the prestigious position of Deputy Rector of FSB Academy. [cite news|date=September 13, 2004|url=http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=401&issue_id=3067&article_id=2368493|title=Ex-North Ossetian law-enforcer describes endemic corruption|publisher=The Jamestown Foundation|accessdate=2006-07-29]
*Alexander Dzasokhov, the head of North Ossetia, resigned his post in May 31, 2005, after a series of demonstrations against him in Beslan and a public pressure from Mothers of Beslan on Putin to have him dismissed. [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/09/3744ef0e-ae76-4fb7-bf3d-610d751b76fd.html Russia: Putin Rejects Open Inquiry Into Beslan Tragedy As Critical Voices Mount] , RFE/RL, September 7, 2004] [ [http://www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2369314 Beslan mothers trust Putin, demand Dzasakhov's head] , The Jamestown Foundation, February 24, 2005]

Five Ossetian and Ingush police officers were tried in the local courts. All were subsequently amnestied or acquitted in 2007.

As of June 2008, none of the Russian federal officials suffered any consequences in connection with the Beslan events.

Other incidents and controversies

Escalation of the Ingush-Ossetian hostility

Nur-Pashi Kulayev claimed that attacking a school and targeting mothers and young children was not merely coincidental, but was deliberately designed for maximum outrage with the purpose of igniting a wider war in the Caucasus. According to this provocation theory, the attackers hoped that the mostly Orthodox Ossetians would attack their mostly Muslim Ingush and Chechen neighbours to seek revenge, encouraging ethnic and religious hatred and strife throughout the North Caucasus.ru icon cite news |first=Sanobar |last=Shermatova |title=Basayev knew there to hit |url=http://www.mn.ru/issue.php?2004-39-11 |publisher="Moskovskiye Novosti" N39 |date=15 October 2004 |accessdate=2007-09-11 ] North Ossetia and Ingushetia had previously been involved in a brief, but bloody conflict in 1992 over disputed land in the North Ossetian Prigorodny District, leaving up to 1,000 dead and some 40,000 to 60,000 displaced persons, mostly Ingush. Indeed, shortly after the Beslan massacre, 3,000 people demonstrated in Vladikavkaz calling for revenge against the ethnic Ingush.

The expected backlash against neighbouring nations failed to materialise on a massive scale (in one noted incident, a group of ethnic Ossetian soldiers led by a Russian officer detained two Chechen Spetsnaz soldiers and executed one of them [ [http://www.memo.ru/eng/memhrc/texts/05bul01.shtml Armed Clashes Between Federal Military Servicemen and Personnel of Republican Security Agencies] , Memorial, January 2005] ). In July 2007, however, the office of the presidential envoy for the Southern Federal District Dmitry Kozak announced that a North Ossetian armed group engaged in abductions as retaliation for the Beslan school hostage taking (the first rumours of such attacks were reported in the Russian and foreign press already during and just after the hostage crisis [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,692846-1,00.html Defenseless Targets] "TIME", September 5, 2004] ). [ [http://www.rferl.org/newsline/2007/07/1-RUS/rus-170707.asp Federal Official suggests Ingush abductions are revenge for Beslan] , RFE/RL, July 17, 2007] FSB Lieutenant Colonel Alikhan Kalimatov, who was sent from Moscow to investigate these cases, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in September 2007. [ [http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=11879203&PageNum=0 High-ranking security officer killed in Ingushetia] , ITAR-TASS, September 18, 2007]

Grabovoy affair and the charges against Beslan activists

In September 2005, the self-proclaimed faith healer and miracle-maker Grigory Grabovoy had promised he could resurrect the killed children for a large sum of money. Grabovoy was arrested and indicted of fraud in April 2006, amidst the accusations that he was being used by the government as a tool to discredit the Mothers of Beslan. [ [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2005/09/28/007.html Cult Leader Takes Heat Off Kremlin] , "The Moscow Times", September 28, 2005]

In January 2008, the Voice of Beslan group, previous year ordered to disband by court, was charged by Russian prosecutors with "extremism" over their 2005 appeals to the European Parliament to help establish international investigation and to the United States to publish satellite photographs of the school made during the siege. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L10622667.htm Beslan siege group says faces trial over campaign] , Reuters, 10 January 2008] [ [http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2008/s2188117.htm Beslan siege support group charged with extremism] , ABC, 13 March 2008] This was soon followed with other charges, some of them relating to the 2007 court incident. As of February 2008, the group was charged in total of four different criminal cases. [ [http://eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/engnews/id/1208390.html Another case initiated against "Voice of Beslan"] , Caucasian Knot, 25 February 2008]

Various

In March 2006, the Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov's top aide Marina Litvinovich, who runs the website [http://www.pravdabeslana.ru/ Pravda Beslana] ("Truth about Beslan"), was savagely beaten by unidentified attackers on a Moscow street and told to "be careful". Nothing was stolen in the attack. [ [http://www.moscowtimes.ru/stories/2006/03/22/012.html Assailants Beat Kasparov's Aide] , "The Moscow Times", March 22, 2006]

In September 2007, Taimuraz Chedzhemov, the lawyer representing the Mothers of Beslan who was seeking to prosecute Russian officials over the massacre, said he has pulled out of the case because of a death threat to his family. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L05876738.htm INTERVIEW-Lawyer drops Beslan probe after death threat] "Reuters" AlertNet, 5 September 2007]

Russia's Patriarch Alexius II's plans to build only an Orthodox temple as part of the Beslan monument have caused a serious conflict between the Orthodox Church and the state-approved leadership of the Russian Muslims (the latter claiming that 70% of those killed in Beslan were Muslims) in 2007. [ [http://www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2372095 Beslan memorial sparks religious tension in North Ossetia] , The Jamestown Foundation, April 12, 2007] Beslan victims organizations also spoke against the project and many in Beslan want the ruins of the school to be preserved, opposing the government plan of its demolition to begin with. [ [http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/newstext/engnews/id/1186988.html Beslan residents are against erection of a temple in the place of the tragedy] , Memorial, May 17, 2007]

International response

The attack at Beslan was met with international abhorrence and universal condemnation, while countries and charities around the world donated to funds set up to assist the families and children that were involved in the Beslan crisis.

On September 1, 2005, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) marked the first anniversary of the Beslan school tragedy by calling on all adults to shield children from war and conflict. [ [http://www.unicef.org/ceecis/media_2753.html Beslan one year on: UNICEF Calls On Adults to Shield Children from Conflict] , UNICEF, 1 September, 2005]

Further reading

* " [http://books.google.com/books?id=UyZuAAAACAAJ Beslan: Shattered Innocence] " by Lynn Milburn Lansford
* " [http://books.google.com/books?id=a4v0AAAACAAJ Beslan: The Tragedy of School Number 1] " by Timothy Phillips (ISBN 1862079277)
* " [http://books.google.com/books?id=Kr7SIPQI_4YC Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America's Schools] " by John Giduck (ISBN 0-9767753-0-1) (preview available)
* " [http://books.google.com/books?id=L8jpAQAACAAJ The 2002 Dubrovka and 2004 Beslan Hostage Crises: A Critique of Russian Counter-Terrorism] " by John B. Dunlop (ISBN 3-89821-608-X)
* " [http://books.google.com/books?id=8lW2JQ8x2gQC The Beslan School Siege and Separatist Terrorism] " by Michael V. Uschan (preview available)

Media portrayal

In films

* " [http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/childrenbeslan/ Children of Beslan] " (2005). Produced and directed by Ewa Ewart and Leslie Woodhead. HBO Documentary Films and BBC co-production. Nominated in three different categories under the 2006 Emmy Award festival and awarded the Royal Television Society prize in the category Best Single Documentary.
* " [http://www.sho.com/site/threedaysinseptember/home.do Three Days in September] " (2006). Directed by Joe Halderman, narrated by Julia Roberts. [http://imdb.com/title/tt0800238/fullcredits Full Credits] [http://www.tribecafilmfestival.org/tixSYS/2006/filmguide/event_np_trailer.php?EventNumber=2127 Trailer]
* "The Beslan Siege" (2005). TV-documentary by October Films. Director: Richard Alwyn, producer: Liana Pomeranzev. Won the Prix Italia Documentary Award for 2006. [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0487077/ IMDB]
*" [http://www.nposales.com/;jsessionid=6F9587F1E645E5A07D19F250EBC47ACB?article=3130&template=program Return to Beslan (Terug naar Beslan)] " (2005). A Dutch documentary produced by Netherlands Public Broadcasting. Won an Emmy Award in 2005 for the best entry in the category "Best Continuing News Coverage".
* "Beslan" (in development). Feature film to be produced by Brian Grazer ("The Da Vinci Code") of Imagine Entertainment. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4992852.stm Hollywood to film Beslan tragedy] , BBC News, 18 May 2006]

In music

* "Black Widow's Eyes" by The Who ( [http://music.aol.com/videos/the-who-live-concert/pete-townshend-commentary Commentary by Pete Townshend] )
* "Children of Beslan" by Steven Cravis ( [http://www.stevencravis.de/ Video by Christian Abicht, available on Cravis' German-language site] )
* "Nichya" (No One's) by t.A.T.u. was dedicated to the children and families of Beslan, and was performed at the Beslan memorial by t. A.T.u.
* "Beslan" by Tactical Sekt is inspired by the crisis.

ee also

*Kizlyar-Pervomayskoye hostage crisis
*List of hostage crises
*School shooting

References

External links

wikinewshas|news coverage of the Beslan school hostage crisis
* February 3, 2005
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* March 8, 2005
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* August 2, 2005
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* August 17, 2005
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* October 7, 2006
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* [http://www.esquire.com/features/articles/2006/060610_mfe_June_06_School_1.html The School.] Feature by C.J. Chivers. "Esquire", June 2006, Volume 145, Issue 6. Last accessed October 4, 2007.
* [http://www.pulitzer.org/year/2005/international-reporting/works/murphy3.html Killers Set Terms, a Mother Chooses.] A 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner by Kim Murphy, "Los Angeles Times". Last accessed October 4, 2007.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2357109.stm Chechen rebels' hostage history] , BBC News, 1 September, 2004
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/05/russia.chechnya Focus: When hell came calling at Beslan's School No 1] "The Guardian", September 5, 2004
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/06/schoolsworldwide.chechnya Timeline: the Beslan school siege] "The Guardian", September 6, 2004
* John B. Dunlop [http://www.peaceinthecaucasus.org/reports/Beslan.pdf Beslan - Russia's 9/11?] , American Committee for Peace in Chechnya and The Jamestown Foundation
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/editor/story/0,12900,1297822,00.html Russian press review. English overview of Russian press reaction] , "The Guardian", September 6, 2004.
* [http://articles.latimes.com/2005/aug/27/world/fg-beslan27 Aching to Know] , by Kim Murphy, "Los Angeles Times", August 27, 2005.
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5740009 Beslan Timeline: How the School Siege Unfolded] , by Kelly McEvers, NPR, August 31, 2006
* [http://www.pravdabeslana.ru/ Pravda Beslana, public investigation of Beslan events] (Beslan's Truth, _ru. Правда Беслана).
* [http://golosbeslana.ru/ Voice of Beslan] [http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&u=http://www.pravdabeslana.ru/vzryvy.htm&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=1&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhttp://www.pravdabeslana.ru/vzryvy.htm%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG English translation]
* [http://www.beslanhope.org/ Hope for Beslan] . Last accessed 4 October 2007
* [http://www.pravdabeslana.ru Day-by-day transcriptions from criminal trial ru icon] , en icon. [http://online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?direction=re&autotranslate=on&url=http://www.pravdabeslana.ru machine translation] . Last accessed July 17, 2006.
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=26134475 Memorial Page for the Victims of Beslan]

Photos and videos

* [http://www.charonboat.com/cgi-bin/ItemView.cgi?id=81 Beslan school siege (09/01/2004) (very graphic!)] .
* [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/20/48hours/main668127.shtml New Video Of Beslan School Terror] CBS, January 21, 2005.
* [http://www.christian-kautz.com/index.php?folder=Russia/Beslan/ Photo report by the German journalist Christian Kautz, visiting Beslan school at 2005] .
* [http://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2004/09/14/international/20040904_RUSSIA_FEATURE.html Terror in Russia. An interactive feature] , "The New York Times".
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/gall/0,,1296787,00.html In pictures. The Beslan School Siege] , "The Guardian", September 2004.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3636196.stm Russian TV broadcasts siege video] BBC News, September 7, 2004.
* [http://www.utro.ru/gallery.shtml?20040903storm,1,147,,240 List of screen shots from BBC News & CNN] .
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/avdb/news_web/video/9012da6800246e0/nb/09012da6800248fc_16x9_nb.asx Beslan. To remember school siege victims] , BBC News.
* [http://www.online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?lang=en&direction=re&autotranslate=on&transliterate=on&url=http%3A%2F%2Fnewizv.ru%2Ffotoreport%2F%3Ff_id=11 Missing hostages' photos] ", "Novye Izvestia". Machine-translated by www.online-translator.com.
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4027837866779837178 Dispatches: Beslan] , a Channel 4 documentary with interviews of people directly involved and affected by the siege.
* [http://news.yahoo.com/page/interactives/hotzone/photoessay?f=chechnya/20060301pe_chechnya Life after Beslan] . Kevin Sites photo essay (15 images).
* [http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=34d_1176448807 Crowd Video Footage From Terrorist Siege in Beslan, Russia] .
* [http://www.golosbeslana.ru/pamyat.htm Pictures of children, teachers and parents who were killed during the event] .
* [http://terror.fredogfrihed.dk/Beslan%20-%20September%201-3%202004/Beslan.htm Portraits of the killed hostages] .
* [http://www.sga.org/beslan/20050105visit/beslanvisit.html Photos of the Beslan school cemetery and inside the destroyed Beslan school.]


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