Friday, June 17, 2005

Beslan - Further Details

More and more details of what really happened at Beslan during the hostage crisis on September 1 2004 are emerging at the trial of Nurpashi Kulayev, the sole surviving member of the hostage-taking group. On June 14, the independent electronic newspaper Kavkazy Uzel, which is published under the aegis of the respected Russian human rights NGO Memorial, released an account of new statements at the trial by eyewitnesses. The latest issue of Jamestown Foundation's Chechnya Weekly offers a summary of what the article contains. Among other things, it states that
Regina Kusraeva, who was in the school with two of her children, told the court: "While we were sitting in the assembly hall, the terrorists tried to contact the government of the republic [and] the country. The terrorists summoned the director of the school Lidia [Tsalieva], who after a few minutes came back to us and said that no one needs us, no one is picking up the phone – neither in Putin's office or from our [North Ossetian] government."

According to Kavkazky Uzel, practically all of the living victims of the terrorist attack have reached the conclusion that it was the "the federals" who "destroyed" the children who died in the incident – over half of the 330 people killed. The website quoted the head of the investigative department of the Interior Ministry branch in North Ossetia's Pravoberezhny district, Elbrus Nogaev, as saying that what happened on September 3 "was not a freeing of hostages," but rather a "military operation."

Regina Kusraeva told the court that on the first day of the hostage seizure, one of the hostage takers told the hostages: "Judging by past experience, we suspect that there will be an assault. If the lights go out, everybody lay on the floor, but don't run; they'll kill you." Kusraeva said the terrorists treated the hostages "reasonably" on the first day of the incident, giving them food and allowing them to line up for water. "But on the second day, they told us that they were declaring together with us a dry hunger strike, inasmuch as their demands were not being met," she said. "Then on the third day the assault began. I sat with the children under the window in the assembly hall. There was such heavy [weapons'] fire that I was afraid that it would pierce the walls. Why did that happen? Then one of the terrorists told me: ‘Get of here; the roof is on fire, you can die.' We ran to the cafeteria; the situation was the same there, and there the militants told us to run out: ‘Now this part of the building will be fired on; get out of here.' Then they forced the hostages to stand on the windowsills, to tear down the drapery and to wave it, to shout [at them] not to shoot. I myself saw how they were shooting from the streets. I sat with the children on the floor, but in one moment I looked and saw a mountain of corpses on the windowsills. Then, an APC [armored personnel carrier] pulled up, three [soldiers] jumped out and point blank began to shoot those hostages who continued to stand on the windowsills. At that moment I was absolutely not scared of the militants; they were not firing at us. The only thing I feared was that they were going to kill them [the terrorists] and then come in the school and shoot all of us."

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