Date: 1-3 September 2004
Location: Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia
Type of event: terrorism
A standoff involving hundreds of hostages held by Chechen terrorists at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia, ended with heavy casualties. On 1 September at 8:30 AM about 32 terrorists (reportedly Chechens and at least 10 Arabs) burst into Beslan School Number One at the conclusion of ceremonies opening the school year and opened fire in the school courtyard. One male parent and one terrorist were killed during the takeover. About 1,181 hostages, including about 855 children, about 60 teachers, and about 266 parents and others, were forced into the school gymnasium. Adults were then forced to extract explosives and weapons placed under the gymnasium's floor during the summer. At 10:50 AM the terrorists threatened to blow up the school if it were stormed, placing children at windows as human shields. Two cars that approached the school were attacked with grenade launchers; at least one driver was killed. About 12 adult males were taken to the second floor and shot, with one more escaping with injuries by jumping out a window. Another person was killed outside the school and two died in hospitals. About 8 were killed, including injured hostages taken from the gymnasium and shot (one child and the remainder adults). Reportedly at some point during the day two female terrorists blew themselves up in school hallways, killing a number of male hostages; other information suggests that the group's leader remotely detonated the two terrorists explosives to deal with dissent among the terrorists. The terrorists requested a specific negotiator with whom they talked from 12:30 AM to 2:00 AM on 2 Sept., when the terrorists ended negotiations. The terrorists negotiated with a former president of Ingushetia region at noon and released 30 women and children at 3:40 PM. The terrorists refused to accept food and water for the hostages, however, who resorted to drinking urine while massed in the gymnasium; many suffered heat exhaustion and removed most clothing.
The morning of 3 Sept. the terrorists agreed to allow an emergency vehicle to remove bodies of those killed two days earlier, and about noon the vehicle approached the school. As the vehicle was withdrawing, a bomb in the gym fell and exploded, prompting the terrorists to shoot and kill two emergency workers outside. Some hostages fled the building, drawing fire from the terrorists. Russian troops and local civilians fired on the terrorists, with disorganization among the latter group. The terrorists detonated their explosives with at least two explosions at 12:05 PM partially collapsing the gymnasium's roof and a wall. Dozens of hostage deaths resulted from the roof collapse. At 12:14 PM about 30 hostages escaped the school, including injured children. Some terrorists began trying to escape at 12:46 PM, and another explosion occurred at 12:53 PM. Troops entered the school around 1:00 PM, and hundreds of hostages fled with terrorists continuing to shoot at them, producing many injuries. At 1:40 PM troops blasted a hole in a wall to assist evacuation of the burning school building. Some terrorists escaped, including some who took hostages in a house. The school was reported clear of hostages by 2:15 PM, and at 2:25 PM troops attacked a house where 13 terrorists were believed hiding. Explosions and gunfire continued near and within the school to at least 4:05 PM. Most terrorists were killed in gunfire (two were killed by crowds of civilians), but some were still firing from the school around noon and at least three were hidden in the school's basement at 2:50 PM with child hostages. At 8:00 PM some children were still being held hostage.
Operations were declared over at 10:40 PM, with at least one terrorist captured alive and 30 terrorists killed; some reports claim 3 escaped. Final reports of the number killed include 336 civilian hostages (of whom 16 died in hospitals); this includes 156 children, 19 teachers, and 161 other adult hostages, mostly parents and other relatives. In addition 2 police officers and 11 soldiers were killed. Reported injuries numbered 727 hostages, about 18 soldiers, and at least 2 police officers. Those hospitalized peaked at 704 (including over 336 children). One survivor committed suicide shortly after 3 Sept., and another committed suicide in early 2005. The school attack followed suicide bombings of two airliners flying from Moscow on 25 Aug., which killed 90, and a suicide bombing in Moscow on 31 Aug. which killed 10.
Consequences: 372 killed, 747 injured
© 2017 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 26 November 2017.
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