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Sep. 03, 2004
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Storm Warnings
// Relatives of the Hostages Swear They Won’t Let the Special Forces into the School
The first fruits have been obtained from negotiations with the terrorists who have been holding School No. 1 in Beslan since September 1 with 354-500 hostages inside (the exact number, in spite of official information, is not known). Former President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev was able to obtain freedom for 26 women and children without any conditions. But those were the last to be freed. It is impossible to predict what the terrorists will do next. Yesterday, the freed hostages made it known that two shakhid-women in the group of terrorists blew themselves up inside the school. (See interview below.) Olga Allenova and Sergey Konovalov report from Beslan.
“Putin, Let Our Children Go! Meet Their Demands!”

The school is almost out of sight from the narrow street across the railroad tracks, where we were sitting with local citizens. They don’t let us get any closer. “We have our people by the school too,” says Zaur, part of the citizen militia that has formed around the school. He is wearing a white armband, just like the soldiers and policemen. “They will say if anything happens.” After a grenade launcher goes off three times from the direction of the school, they make us move across the street, closer to the fence. They say that a car has caught fire on the next block after being hit by the grenade launcher. Local residents standing near are worried. “Is it true that there was an explosion there?” an elderly woman yells at the militia. “Are they storming it?” “Don’t be afraid,” Zaur replies. “They are shooting because it is their tactic. They won’t storm it. What do you think we are doing here?”

“Are they going to ask you before they decide to storm the school?” I ask.

“What can they do?” Zaur asks. “It’s the blueblood sitting in the headquarters. They understand that we are not sitting here for nothing. We will not allow any storming. We will stand around the walls and the special forces won’t get in. This isn’t Moscow. Nobody is going to poison our children and we won’t let them shoot at them. Let them find a peaceful solution.”

One of the militiamen jumps up suddenly. “Someone is entering the school! In a dark suit.” The militiamen look worried. “Probably someone from the headquarters has gone in for negotiations,” one of them, Alan, suggests.

“Did you see that?” Two men with machineguns run up to us. “That’s Aushev. Aushev. It was! If he has gone in, that means they asked for him themselves.”

Alan’s cell phone rings. “A bus has approached the school,” he says. “Empty. That means something is going on.”

North Ossetian Minister of the Interior Kazbek Dzantiev was telling reporters about the same thing at the same time. “The process is going on,” he said crossing the cordon. Those words spread through the whole neighborhood within minutes. Panic broke out at the Palace of Culture, where there were psychologists on duty to aid the relatives of the hostages. People who have been standing here for two days rushed the cordon. Sirens were heard over the sound of the crowd. Three cars with tinted windows passed. “There’s a woman inside!” they cried from the crowd. People threw themselves on the cars. But the cars gained speed and disappeared in the direction of the headquarters. People run around, asking each other what is going on and who was in the cars.

In the courtyard in front of the Palace of Culture, the head of the president of North Ossetia’s information office, Lev Dzugaev, shows up. He began to speak very quickly about how the president of North Ossetia, Aleksandr Dzasokhov, promised an hour ago an “intensification of negotiations” and that that has taken place, as a result of which three women with nursing babies were released. “Thank God!” is heard in the crowd. “Dzasokhov has started to do something!” “Great!” someone yelled.

“We hope the process will continue,” Dzugaev said.

“Where are those women? Where are those children? How many people were there?” someone called out.

Dzugaev did not answer those questions. “At least tell us how they feel, what they are saying!” a woman said, grabbing him by the sleeve.

“How could they feel after two days without food or water?” Dzugaev replied. He was clearly tired.

This first success encouraged the people. They had been standing on the street under the burning sun, exhausted from their powerlessness and a sleepless night. Now they looked livelier, and began discussing how soon the rest of the hostages would be freed. Several people raised signs reading “Putin! Release our children! Meet their demands!” and “Putin! There are at least 800 hostages!”

“Let them show the rebels and their demands on television, so that there won’t be a storm,” Batraz Albegov, a relative of a hostage cries. “They passed out a cassette from the school. Our militia told us. Why aren’t they showing the cassette on television? They said it was blank. It’s not blank. Their demands are on it. Why don’t they show it on television?”

Yesterday they questioned all the relatives and made a list,” a woman said loudly. “There are more than 1000 people there. There school has 1200 students.”

Then why are they saying that there are 345 people at the headquarters?” somebody asks in the crowd.

To lower the percentage of casualties,” the answer comes from nearby.

“What does percentage matter to us?” a woman asks in tears. “I need my children back alive.”

“Do you want Putin to come?” a foreign journalist cries out, forcing his way through the crowd.

“What do we need Putin for? We don’t need Putin here,” Albegov answered. “We need real leaders. Zakaev. Aushev. Maskhadov. We have to make contact with them.”

“Aushev is already here,” someone said. “The militiamen saw him.”

“It was Aushev who freed the women,” someone added. “Let him talk with them some more, so they would let them all out!”

“Of course. They are his rebels! They came from Ingushetia,” a woman in the crowd yells.

Half an hour later, it is announced that the terrorists had released 26 people, 112 women and 15 children, after talks with Aushev. Then Aushev stepped away from the negotiations.

The freed hostages were taken to the Beslan city hospital. They women called home from there and said that the rebels treated them all right.

“The hostages have been divided into three groups in the gymnasium,” said Zara, one of the freed women. “We, mothers with small babies, were in one group. Older children were in another group and men were in the third. There are showers in the gymnasium, and the rebels let us drink from the faucets. They let the head of the cafeteria cook for us with what was there - flour, cereal, canned vegetables. They accompanied the women and children to the bathroom. That night, when there was heavy rain and loud thunderclaps, the rebels thought that we were being stormed. They ran around, started checking the locks, then they lead the men away. Later we found out they took them to the second floor. They are still there in the cleaning closet.

The School Seized in Beslan >>

“Ossetia is Surrounded by Very Particular Neighbors.”

On Wednesday night, no one slept in Beslan. Even in spite of the heavy rain, people did not go home. They stood under store awnings and in the doorways of nearby apartment buildings. At the headquarters, people were offered psychological assistance and first aid. The doctors gave out mild sedatives. The psychologists talked to people, but there was no line to see them.

“What are you afraid of?” a doctor asked a young woman.

“I’m afraid they’ll kill them,” she answered, crying, covering her mouth with her hands.

“Don’t be afraid. It won’t happen,” he answered.

“How do you know?” she asked, hopefully.

Somehow the psychologist knew everything, and everyone believed him. Everyone was hoping for the best. Tamara Tskaeva told me that the terrorists wouldn’t touch the children.

They are people too, in the final analysis, and they have children of their own. Tamara’s sister said that President Dzasokhov will talk to the people and then negotiate with the terrorists, and they will listen to him. “If he doesn’t go, he will have a hard time explaining it to the people,” one woman said.

Late at night, the terrorists demanded to talk to a foreign journalist. We found out about it by chance. Al-Alam television correspondent Abdula Isa got a quick call on his cell phone, then prepared to go somewhere. “They asked me to go into the negotiations,” he said. “They want a foreigner. They called me from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They’re sending a car for me.” Isa returned two hours later. “I waited at headquarters,” he said. “They talked to the terrorists by phone, but they [the terrorists] didn’t agree to it for some reason and hung up on them.”

At about 2:00 a.m., the relatives began to lose hope for a quick release of the hostages. Someone from the headquarters gathered the relatives in the Palace of Culture and explained, “The process will be long and will take at least two or three days.”

At 3:00, the terrorists broke off negotiations. Shooting began at the school almost immediately. The terrorists shot past the cordon. Two grenades were launched and exploded near Professional Technical School No. 8, about 100 meters from where the relatives were gathered. The relatives did not budge.

Closer to morning, Dzugaev from the North Ossetian presidential information office tried to calm the crowd. He had barely begun telling them that, according to the latest count, 354 hostages remained in the school, when he was interrupted from the crowd.

“What do you mean 300? Do you have any conscience?” women cried out.

Dzugaev tried to continue, but no one listened to him.

“Our children are there. There are thousands of family members here. And you lie to us,” a woman sobbed. “There are at least 500 people there.”

North Ossetian Minister of the Interior Dzantiev came forward and tried to establish order.

“The terrorists only want to speak with [adviser to the President of Russia Aslanbek Aslakhanov, Zyazikov, Dzasokhov and Roshal. Only with those four together,” he said. “They have made no other demands.”

A man shouted at him in Ossetian, and the minister backed down.

“Yes, I know that we made up the lists ourselves,” he said. “But, according to them, there are only 400 children, plus parents and teachers. We are trying to talk to them, to offer to exchange adults for the children. They are refusing. We even offered them safe passage to the border. “Leave, just leave us the children.’ They refused.”

“They say they released 12 people,” a relative said.

“No, they didn’t release anybody. Just after they pushed everybody into the gymnasium, they closed themselves into the boiler room and then they escaped through a window.”

In the morning, the rebels agreed to meet with Dr. Roshal. The doctor approached the school, but the rebels refused to meet with him at the last minute. Bread and water offered to them remained untouched on the doorstep. The tension mounted. Two women fainted while talking to psychologists on the street in front of the headquarters.

The rebels probably did not appreciate the crowd on the street by the school. They allowed the hostages to make several phone calls. School principal Lidiya Tsalieva made the first call. There had been rumors that she was badly wounded.

“I am all right,” she said. “The children are too.”

Obviously, her conversation was monitored by the rebels. The conversation was very short.

About an hour later, President Dzasokhov spoke to the relatives of the hostages. He said that everything possible was being done to free the hostages and that contact was being made with the kidnappers.

That, after 15 hours, negotiations would be renewed. “How could they have gotten in,” asked a young woman whom a psychologist had spoken to that night. The president answered, “Ossetia is surrounded by very particular neighbors.”

by Olga Allenova; Sergey Konovalov, Beslan


The School Was Seized by Magas, Fantomas and Abdullah

Investigators have not yet established any specific information about the occupiers of the school. Freed hostages and police who have negotiated with the terrorists by walkie-talkies say that the leaders of the bandits are Magas, Fantomas and Abdullah.

Magas is obviously Magomed Evloev, a close associate of Shamil Basaev, who, along with Basaev, organized the raid in Ingushetia on June 22 of this year. Little is known about Fantomas. In Chechnya, according to the Ministry of Interior of that republic, that pseudonym is used by one of Basaev’s bodyguards. Arrested rebels have described him as a huge man with a shaven head and powerful build. The rebels who have been arrested do not know him, but they suggest that he is Russian. In any case, he has blond eyebrows and speaks Russian without an accent. Abdullah is Vladimir Khodov, a criminal who is well known in North Ossetia and Astrakhan Region. He is a native of the Muslim village of Elkhotovo. The local police say that he went to Astrakhan in 2000 to see his younger brother Boris, who was arrested on suspicion of murder, and subsequently disappeared. Some time later, a warrant for the arrest of the older Khodov was forwarded from Astrakhan, in which it was stated that he was wanted for rape. They were unable to locate him although, after the attack in Ingushetia, he was declared wanted throughout the entire republic. There was information that Vladimir Khodov was fighting in Basaev’s brigade and may be a participant in a series of murders and terrorist acts. His mother has already been questioned. She said that she has not seen Vladimir since last year when he came to the village for Boris’s funeral. Boris was killed soon after he was released by the police. Hostages say that there are Arabs among the terrorists. The Ossetian police have even named one of them, Abu-Zeid, who commands a subdivision of 40-50 people in Ingushetia. That group attacked border guards in Narzan in June, burning down a barrack using a flamethrower, although the border guards were able to repel the attack. The Ingush Ministry of the Interior told Kommersant that Abu-Zeid could not be among the occupiers of the school, since he was killed this month in Malgobek when police pursued retreating rebels. It is possible that another rebel is simply using his name to give the action “international” status. Yesterday, a criminal case was opened in relation to the act, citing articles on kidnapping, terrorism and murder. If the terrorists free their hostages voluntarily, one of those accusations will be annulled. For the others, however, they face life in prison.

by Sergey Mashkin


The First Hostage Becomes the First Suspect

The first person detained in the case of the Beslan siege was Sultan Gurazhev, a police officer from Khurikau village, Mozdok district, North Ossetia. Kommersant learned that Gurazhev was interrogated all day yesterday in the North Ossetia Ministry of the Interior. Tagir Gurazhev, Sultan’s brother, told Kommersant how the village police officer was able to escape. “Sultan went to Malgobek early in the morning on September 1 to take our relatives’ car back to them. He was driving it,” Sultan’s brother tells. “At about 6:40, he was stopped by armed men in camouflage and masks. They were driving a tented GAZ-66. They dragged my brother out of his car, took away his pistol and badge, put a sack over his head and threw him into their truck. They were on their way to Beslan to seize the school.”

The police officer ran into the terrorists, not even having gone as far a kilometer from Khurikau. His brother said that the GAZ-66 was driving on the Mozdok-Vladikavkaz highway in the direction of the Vladikavkaz, bypassing Khurikau. “They could get to North Ossetia either through Mozdok, or through the Ingush town of Malgobek,” a local resident continues. “We are 30 km away from Beslan and 20 km from Malgobek. In the beginning of the 1990s, after the Ossetian-Ingush events, the Mozdok-Vladikavkaz highway was blocked at one point. They put out concrete blocks and dug a trench, so these people probably came from the direction of Mozdok.”

Sultan Gurazhev’s relatives waited for him to return all day Wednesday. He had promised to return within a few hours. They found out what had really happened to him from Kommersant. Yesterday, Tagir Gurazhev called his brother’s boss in Mozdok, who told him Sultan was able to escape from the terrorists when they seized the school and the gunfire began. “He went to the district department to let them know that his pistol and badge were taken away,” the police officer’s brother continues. “And yesterday I wanted to go after him to Vladikavkaz, but a block post has been set up 12 km. away from our village, at Stary Batayyurt, which didn’t let me through. So I had to come back.”

by Alek Akhundov


How the Children Were Taken Hostage

May 15, 1974, in Maalot, in the North of Israel, members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine seized a school where a group of schoolchildren from Tsvat was spending a night. The terrorists demanded that their associates imprisoned in Israel be released. When special forces began storming the building, the terrorists threw grenades on the children. As many as 20 children and 3 teachers died, and 40 were wounded. All rebels were killed.

December 17, 1981, in Sarapoul, Udmurtia, two military deserters took hostage 25 children from School No. 12. The deserters demanded to be transported to the USA immediately, threatening to shoot all hostages. The court sentenced the soldiers to 12 and 6 years of imprisonment.

December 1, 1988, in Ordzhonikidze, five terrorists seized a bus with 30 fourth graders from School No. 42 and their teacher on board. In return for the children, authorities gave them $2 million, weapons and a plane to fly to Israel. On December 2 in the Tel Aviv airport, the Israeli special forces detained the terrorists, and returned them to the USSR on December 3. On March 1989, the bandits were sentenced to 14-15 years of imprisonment.

December 23, 1993, in Rostov-on-Don, four armed people seized a teacher and 15 ninth graders in Gymnasium No. 25, demanding a helicopter and $10 million, which they received. On December 27, the helicopter landed in Makhachkala, where the bandits were detained and hostages released. The terrorists were sentenced to 10-15 years of imprisonment.

May 26, 1994, near Mineralnye Vody, a group of Chechens seized a bus traveling from Vladikavkaz to Stavropol with 36 schoolchildren and their parents. The bandits demanded drugs, a helicopter, $10 million and weapons. After negotiations, they released the children and some adults and flew to Chechnya on the helicopter. There, three of them were arrested, and three more were caught a year later. The terrorists received different sentences, 12 years to life imprisonment.

December 5, 1995, 31-year-old Yury Kardanov entered the Kindergarten No. 44 in Vladikavkaz, took 16 4-5 year old children hostage and their teachers, demanding a ransom. In the process of negotiations, he exploded two grenades. Four children were killed, eight wounded. On June 9, 1997, the Supreme Court of North Ossetia sentenced the terrorist to 15 years of imprisonment.

March 11, 1999, 17-year old Denis Koshevko took 17 students hostage in School No. 55 Zabaikalsky village, Buryatia. He demanded his two acquaintances, charged with murder of a woman, to be released. The criminal surrendered himself to the authorities on the same day, none of the hostages were injured.

February 26, 2001, a terrorist in a mask ran into School No. 6 of Khasavyurt and took six seventh graders hostage. Shooting into the air with a pistol and threatening to set off a grenade, he demanded $30,000 and negotiations with authorities. The brother of the city administration head Shamil Ukhmanov brought into the class a box with the money and, when the criminal began counting the money, he was neutralized. He turned out to be a 29-year-old drug addict.

November 18, 2002, a man armed with a knife took hostage 25 school children aged 10-11 and a teacher in parochial school Casa del Anjel near Barcelona. He demanded 1.5 million euros. He was arrested the same day, none of the hostages were injured.

All the Article in Russian as of Sep. 03, 2004

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