Survivors of Russian School Siege Recall the Nightmare

(Washington Post) The Islamic militants, numbering between 30 and 40, arrived at School No. 1 in Beslan, Russia, in a large military truck. They were well-equipped, carrying night-vision goggles, sniper rifles, and silencers as well as an arsenal of explosives. About 1,200 hostages, at ceremonies for the opening of the school year, were packed into the basketball court inside the gymnasium. The terrorists set up two large explosive charges connected to a pedal mechanism beside the feet of two sitting terrorists. They placed mines among the crowd and at entrances. Five more mines were hung from a wire that was run between the basketball hoops and over the sitting crowd. About 22 men were taken to build barricades around the gym - and then were executed. At least 340 hostages, including 150 children, were killed and another 700 people were wounded, many seriously. The survivors described a number of their captors as "Wahhabis," a reference to the Wahhabi sect of Islam originating in Saudi Arabia, because of their long beards and prayer caps. "They told us to pray to Allah," said Fatima Alikova, 27, a photographer who had gone to the school for the local newspaper.

2004-09-06 00:00:00

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