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tonihawr at msn.com
Wed Sep 1 12:28:23 EDT 2004
excerpt : "The statement said Tuesday's bombing was a blow against Putin, "who slaughtered Muslims time and again."
Attackers seize hostages at Russian school
Eight reported dead in violent takeover near Chechnya
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 10:08 a.m. ET Sept. 1, 2004
MOSCOW - Attackers wearing suicide-bomb belts seized a school in a Russian region bordering Chechnya on Wednesday and were holding at least 120 hostages, many of them children. News reports said that eight people had died in the takeover.
The assault by the heavily armed gang of up to 17 men and women came a day after a suicide bomber killed 10 people in Moscow.
The ITAR-Tass news agency, citing local hospitals, reported that seven people died of injuries in the hospital and one was killed at the site during the seizure.
Earlier, emergency workers had told the Associated Press that three people had been killed, including one child.
Fatima Khabolova, a spokeswoman for the regional parliament, said that two people had died, including a father who had brought his child to the school and was shot when he tried to resist the raiders. An attacker also was killed and nine people were injured, she said.
There was confusion over the number of hostages. Initial reports said that 400 students and teachers were being held in the school, but the Interfax news agency later quoted local police as saying the number was between 120 and 150.
The hostage-takers, suspected to be Chechen rebels, were threatening to kill 50 children for every one of their number killed by security forces, the region's interior minister said.
Attackers threaten children
"They have said that for every fighter wiped out they will kill 50 children and for every fighter wounded, 20," Kazbek Dzantiyev told local journalists in Beslan in Russia's North Ossetia region.
ITAR-Tass reported that the attackers had released 15 children several hours after seizing the school, but Ruslan Ayamov, a spokesman for North Ossetia's Interior Ministry, denied that the hostage-takers had freed anyone, telling the Associated Press that 12 children and one adult managed to escape after hiding in the building's boiler room.
Parents of the seized children recorded a videocassette appeal to President Vladimir Putin to fulfill the terrorists' demands, said Khabalova, the parliament spokeswoman. The text of the appeal was not immediately available.
The seizure began after a ceremony marking the first day of the Russian school year, reports said, when it was likely that many parents had accompanied their children to class. The attackers warned they would blow up the school if police tried to storm it and forced children to stand at the windows, said Alexei Polyansky, a police spokesman for southern Russia.
Both the school attack and the Moscow bombing appeared to be the work of Chechen rebels or their sympathizers, but there was no evidence of any direct link. The two strikes came just a week after two Russian planes carrying 90 people crashed almost simultaneously in what officials also say were terrorist bombings.
"In essence, war has been declared on us, where the enemy is unseen and there is no front," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said, according to the Interfax-Military News Agency. He spoke before the seizure.
Chechnya election set for Sunday
The latest violence also appears to be timed around Sunday's presidential elections in Chechnya, a Kremlin-backed move aimed at undermining support for the insurgents by establishing a modicum of civil order in the war-shattered republic. The previous Chechen president, Akhmad Kadyrov, was killed along with more than 20 others in a bombing on May 9.
Gunfire broke out after the raid and at least three teachers and two police officers were wounded, Polyansky said. More gunfire and several explosions were heard about three hours later, the Interfax news agency reported.
He said most of the attackers were wearing suicide bomb belts.
The attackers demanded talks with regional officials and a well-known pediatrician, Leonid Roshal, who had aided hostages during the seizure of a Moscow theater in 2002, news reports said.
The hostage-takers demanded the release of fighters detained over a series of attacks on police facilities in neighboring Ingushetia in June, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing regional officials. The well-coordinated raids killed more than 90 people.
ITAR-Tass, citing regional emergency officials, said about 400 people including some 200 children were being held captive. A regional police official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the hostages had been herded into the school gymnasium.
There were 17 attackers, both male and female, Interfax said, citing Ismel Shaov, a regional spokesman for the Federal Security Service.
In television footage from outside the school in Beslan, a town about 10 miles north of the regional capital of Vladikavkaz, hundreds of men in camouflage with heavy-caliber machine guns were seen taking up positions on the perimeter as other men in civilian dress with light automatic rifles paced nervously. Armored vehicles were parked nearby.
Girl, woman seen fleeing
At one point, a girl of about age 7 in a floral print dress and a red bow in her hair streaked around a corner apparently after fleeing from the school, followed by an older woman.
Witnesses near the school said sporadic gunfire could be heard throughout the day.
"Every gunshot I hear is like a shot into my heart," said a woman who identified herself as Vera and said her child was among the hostages.
The attack was the latest in a string of violence that has tormented Russians and plagued Putin's government. Putin came to power in 2000 vowing to crush the Chechen rebels but has been largely unable to do so.
Terrorism fears in Russia had risen markedly following the plane crashes and the suicide bombing outside a Moscow subway station on Tuesday night that killed 10 people and wounded more than 50.
A militant Muslim web site published a statement claiming responsibility for the bombing on behalf of the "Islambouli Brigades," a group that also claimed responsibility for the airliner crashes. The veracity of the statements could not immediately be confirmed.
The statement said Tuesday's bombing was a blow against Putin, "who slaughtered Muslims time and again." Putin has refused to negotiate with rebels in predominantly Muslim Chechnya who have fought Russian forces for most of the past decade, saying they must be wiped out.
Putin returns to Moscow for crisis
Putin interrupted his working holiday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday and returned to Moscow, after doing the same last week because of the plane crashes. Upon arrival at the Moscow airport, Putin held an immediate meeting with the heads of Russia's Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service, the Interfax news agency said.
The former spy-chief rose to power in 2000 on the strength of his tough approach on Chechnya and has always refused to negotiate with separatists.
Previous hostage-taking involving Chechen rebels have all ended with huge loss of life.
When Chechen rebels seized 700 hostages at a Moscow theater in 2002, 129 hostages and 41 guerrillas were killed when Russian troops stormed the building, using poisonous gas to incapacitate the attackers.
In 1995, Chechen rebels took hundreds of hostages in a hospital in the southern Russian town of Budennovsk. More than 100 died during the assault and a botched Russian commando raid.
Wednesday's school seizure came a day after a female suicide bomber blew herself up in central Moscow.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov told reporters near the Rizhskaya subway stop in northern Moscow that the female bomber was walking toward the station but saw two police officers stationed there, turned around "and decided to destroy herself in a crowd of people."
The blast tore through a heavily trafficked area between the subway station and a nearby department store. Doctors worked through the night to save the lives of others who were severely wounded by the bomb that officials said was packed with bolts to maximize casualties.
Several female suicide bombers allegedly connected with the rebels have caused carnage in Moscow and other Russian cities in a series of attacks in recent years.
Suicide bombers known as 'black widows'
Many of the women bombers are believed to be so-called "black widows," who have lost husbands or male relatives in the fighting that has gripped Chechnya for most of the past decade. Investigators of the plane crashes are seeking information about two Chechen women believed to have been aboard - one on each plane.
Police spokesman Valery Gribakin said hours after the blast that police patrols were being increased and document checks stepped up, and that security at subway and train stations and airports was being boosted. However, no increase of uniformed officers was immediately apparent at subway stations during the morning rush on Wednesday.
Fears that the Chechen rebels aimed to export their fight outside the small republic's borders rose in June after insurgents launched a coordinated series of attacks on police facilities in neighboring Ingushetia, in which more than 90 people were killed.
In a videotape released several days after the attack, a man appearing to be warlord Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the assaults and said his fighters had seized huge quantities of arms from police arsenals.
In 1995, Chechen rebels led by Basayev seized a hospital in the southern Russian city of Budyonnovsk, taking some 2,000 people hostage. The six-day standoff ended with a fierce Russian police assault. Some 100 people died in the incident.
Actions outside of Chechnya linked to the conflict.
June 21- 22, 2004
Chechen rebels kill at least 92 people, mostly law-enforcement officers and officials, while setting fire to police and government buildings around Nazran, the main city of the neighboring republic of Ingushetia.
Feb. 6, 2004
An explosion rips through a subway car in the Moscow metro during rush hour, killing at least 30 people.
Dec. 9, 2003
Female suicide bomber blows herself up outside Moscow's National Hotel, across from the Kremlin and Red Square, killing five bystanders.
Dec. 5, 2003
Suicide bombing on commuter train in southern Russia kills 44 people. President Vladimir Putin condemns attack as bid to destabilize the country two days before parliamentary elections. Six people were killed in two blasts on the same railway line in September.
Sept. 16, 2003
Two suicide bombers drive a truck laden with explosives into a government security services building near Chechnya, killing three people and injuring 25.
Aug. 1, 2003
50 people are killed in Mozdok, North Ossetia, when a truck bomb smashes through the gates of a hospital where Russian soldiers injured in Chechnya are treated.
July 10, 2003
A Russian security agent dies in Moscow while trying to defuse a bomb a woman had tried to carry into a cafe on central Moscow's main street.
July 5, 2003
Double suicide bombing at a Moscow rock concert kills the female attackers and 15 other people.
Oct. 24, 2002
Chechen rebels seize 800 people in a Moscow theater. After a three-day standoff, Russian authorities launch a rescue attempt in which all 41 attackers are killed along with 127 hostages who succumb to a knockout gas used to incapacitate the assailants.
May 4, 2002
Lone gunman holds 13 people hostage at a hotel in Istanbul to protest situation in Chechnya. The gunman surrenders after an hour.
April 22, 2001
Some 20 gunmen hold about 120 people for 12 hours at a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, to protest Russian actions in Chechnya. The rebels later surrender to police and release the hostages.
March 16, 2001
Three Chechens hijack a Russian airliner leaving Istanbul and divert it to Saudi Arabia. Saudi forces storm plane, killing one hijacker and two hostages.
Sept. 16, 1999
Bombs shear off the front of a nine-story apartment building in Volgodonsk, 500 miles south of Moscow. Nearly 20 are killed. Authorities again blame Chechens rebels, but nobody is charged.
Sept. 13, 1999
A bomb destroys an apartment building in southern Moscow, killing 70. Officials blame Chechens, but nobody is ever charged in the attack.
Sept. 9, 1999
Explosion wrecks a nine-story apartment building in southeast Moscow, killing almost 100. Authorities suspect a Chechen bomb, although no evidence is ever provided to support the claim.
Sept. 4, 1999
Bomb destroys a building housing Russian military officers and families in Buinaksk in Russia's Dagestan region. Sixty-four die. Russian officials blame Chechen rebels, but never prove their involvement.
March 9, 1996
Turkish sympathizer hijacks jetliner flying out of Cyprus to draw attention to situation in Chechnya. The sympathizer surrenders after plane lands in Munich, Germany.
Jan. 16, 1996
Six Turks and three Chechens hold 255 hostages on ferry in Black Sea, threatening to blow up ship if Russia doesn't halt battles in southern Russia. The rebels surrender after three days.
Jan. 9, 1996
Chechen militants seize 3,000 hostages at a hospital in southern Russian town of Kizlyar. Rebels release most, then head for Chechnya with about 100 hostages. Rebels are stopped in a village and attacked by Russian troops. At least 78 die in weeklong fight.
June 14, 1995
Chechen gunmen take 2,000 hostages at a hospital in southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk, near Chechnya. After failed attempts at force, Russia negotiates the hostages' release in exchange for the gunmen's escape. More than 100 die.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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