Over 600 people have died in terrorist attacks against Russiaover the past two years, the majority related to the war in theseparatist republic of Chechnya, a traditionally Sunni Muslimregion where Russian troops continue to battle guerillas fightingfor independence.
“We shall fight against them, throw them inprisons and destroy them,” said Russian President Vladimir Putinaccording to the New York Times, but officials in North Ossestiasaid they were trying to open talks with the guerillas in an effortto save the hundreds of children and civilians murdered inside aBeslan school.
Early on in the attack, the head of the North Ossetian branch ofthe Federal Security Service, Valery Andreyev, claimed that 10 ofthe attackers were Arabs and one Black, but later Deputy ProsecutorSergei Fridinsky said that there were Chechens, Ingush, Tatars,Kazakhs, and Koreans among the 32 attackers. The militantswere holding at least 1,000 children, teachers and parents insidethe school.
Hostages concurred Monday that fighting onlybegan after a heavy bomb fell off a basketball hoop in thegymnasium and detonated. At that very moment, four EmergencySituations Ministry officers were approaching the school under anarrangement with the attackers to pick up bodies that had beenlying in the schoolyard since the crises started.
Authorities said attackers standing guard atthe windows opened fire, believing that the blast in the gymnasiumand the approaching rescuers signaled the beginning of an operationto storm the school. The harsh result was at least 335 peopledead—including 156 children and more than 540 wounded,state-controlled Russia televisions reported Monday, providing thelatest update on Friday’s toll. Reports also said 192 peoplewere buried Monday.
A total of 332 people remained hospitalized,including 202 children, and about 200 people were missing,according to the North Ossetian Health Ministry.
The attack comes a day after a suicide bomberkilled 10 people outside a subway station in Moscow and weeks aftertwo planes exploded at the same time, causing the airliners tocrash and kill all 90 people on board.