Four Years On, Russia Remembers
Beslan School Tragedy

RIA Novosti Photo

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) — Russia marks the fourth anniversary of the Beslan school tragedy during which 331 people died, including 186 children. One of the most shocking and widely publicized events in recent world history began on September 1, 2004 when a group of terrorists seized School No. 1 in the town of Beslan, 30 km northwest of Vladikavkaz, the capital of the Russian republic of North Ossetia.

September 1 is known in Russia as the ‘Day of Knowledge’ and is when schoolchildren all over the country return to or begin their studies.

The terrorists killed 17 adults in the first hours of the siege, and then set up explosive devices around the school, concentrating them and the hostages in the gym. They then demanded that Russian troops pull out of the Chechen republic. The operation was organized by the late notorious Chechen warlord, Shamil Basayev.

The siege ended after three days when federal troops stormed the school – hundreds of people died as militants and troops exchanged fire. The authorities were widely criticized for their handling of the siege and for the events leading up to it. All of the terrorists bar one were killed.

During events in Beslan to remember the dead, flowers and floral wreaths were laid and candles lit in memory of the deceased. The proceedings started with the ringing of the school bell to mark the exact time when the school was seized.

Hundreds of people observed a minute of silence near the school gym where the hostages were kept during the siege. The school has not been repaired and has been left in ruins as a memorial to the dead.

The mourning ceremony will continue the next day, and a requiem concert will be given in Beslan on Tuesday night in memory of those who died in Russia’s worst terrorist attack.

Russian opposition parties and human rights groups plan to hold three days of rallies in central Moscow and other cities across Russia.

Read the Full Day-by-Day Coverage of the 2004 Beslan Terrorist Attack:

** Full Coverage of Beslan School Siege
** Beslan Siege Was Work of al Qaeda Cell from… Kabardino-Balkaria

Read More On Events in the Years Following Beslan:

** Putin Says Terrorism Remains Major Threat for Russia (August 2008)
** Russia Supreme Court Upholds Acquittal of Beslan Police (March 2008)
** Gunmen Leader, Beslan Siege Mastermind Killed in South Russia (June 2007)
** Female Victims of Beslan Terror Wreck Court (May 2007)
** Police Failed to Prevent 2004 Beslan School Siege – Report
(December 2006)

Putin Says Terrorism Remains Major Threat for Russia

RIA Novosti Photo
MOSCOW, August 4, 2008 (RIA Novosti) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that although significant progress has been made in counter-terrorism efforts, the country still faces a major terrorist threat.

The most recent large-scale terrorist attack in Russia was the Beslan school siege of September 2004, in which 333 hostages including 186 children died. Sporadic small-scale terrorist attacks and militant clashes with police and troops remain common in Russia’s North Caucasus republics, although the active phase of the Kremlin campaign to fight militants and terrorists in Chechnya is officially over.

"Serious blows have been dealt to terrorist leaders and networks. But we should be aware that this threat remains – it is very serious," Vladimir Putin told the inner cabinet during discussions on a federal anti-terrorism program.

He said "tens of billions" of rubles in government funds would be provided for the program.

"A major focus will be placed on prevention of crimes related to terrorism and extremism," he said. The measures will continue a program that was wound up last year.

"The sole priority of this work is to improve security for civilians," he said.

Along with the Beslan hostage crisis, Russia’s worst terrorist attacks were the Moscow theater siege of October 2002, when 129 hostages died, and the September 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow and two towns, which killed nearly 300.

Russia Supreme Court Upholds
Acquittal of Beslan Police

MOSCOW, March 6, 2008 (RIA Novosti) — Russia’s Supreme Court upheld on Thursday a not-guilty verdict for police officers accused of negligence leading to the 2004 Beslan school siege.

The court dismissed an appeal from over 200 victims involved in the case and an appeal filed by prosecutors.

The seizure of School No 1 by Chechen separatists in the North Caucasus town of Beslan in September 2004 left 333 people dead, including 186 children. The raid was carried out by forces loyal to the notorious militant Shamil Basayev.

Basayev was killed by Russian security forces in July 2006.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Ingushetia, based on a jury verdict, had previously acquitted Mukhazhir Yevloyev, head of the local police department, and Akhmed Kotiyev, his deputy.

Ella Kesayeva, an activist of the Voice of Beslan group of survivors and relatives of the siege victims, said the verdict was unlawful, in particular because the jury included the defendants’ relatives and was, therefore, biased.

She said the survivors and victims intend to challenge the Supreme Court’s ruling in the European Court of Human Rights.

Nur-Pashi Kulayev, the only surviving militant to have taken part in the Beslan siege, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006.

Gunmen Leader, Beslan Siege Mastermind
Killed in South Russia

RIA Novosti Photo

MOSCOW, June 17, 2007 (RIA Novosti) — A gunmen leader and a mastermind of the bloody school siege in Beslan, Ruslan Aushev, has been killed in a special forces operation in southern Russia, the special services said Sunday.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) for the Russian republic of Ingushetia near Chechnya said Aushev had been found in a house in a local village Sunday. When the police and special forces tried to arrest him, the man opened fire and sustained a lethal wound from return fire.

The FSB said Aushev was one of those who stood behind the hostage-taking crisis in a Beslan school in southern Russia in 2004, which officially claimed 331 lives, including 186 children. The FSB also said Aushev’s group had attacked law enforcement headquarters, and planted explosives on motorways.

Female Victims of Beslan Terror Wreck Court

VLADIKAVKAZ, May 29, 2007 (RIA Novosti) — Women who suffered from the terror in Beslan in 2004 staged a riot in a local court when it failed to pass a verdict Tuesday on policemen accused of neglecting their duty.

The court launched hearings early Tuesday. However, Judge Vitaly Besolov failed to pronounce a verdict even at a postponed meeting at 4:00 p.m., as the complainants refused to hear it in the absence of the defendants.

The three policemen accused of negligence that allowed terrorists to seize a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan in September 2004 went on trial in March 2006. Their lawyers asked for an amnesty May 10, citing amendments to the law on amnesty for offenders who committed crimes during Russia’s counterterrorism operation in the Southern Federal District.

The women, the bulk of them the mothers of children killed in the school siege, started to tear down window blinds and break windows and furniture in the court, forcing the judge to leave without saying a word.

A total of 331 people, including 186 children, were killed in Beslan.

Police Failed to Prevent 2004
Beslan School Siege – Report

MOSCOW, December 22, 2006 (RIA Novosti) — Local police did not take appropriate measures to prevent a terrorist attack on a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan in September 2004, a parliamentary investigation commission said Friday.

The hostage crisis at Beslan’s School No.1 in the North Caucasus republic of North Ossetia claimed the lives of 331 people, including 186 children. More than 700 people were wounded.

"The terrorist act was not prevented, because local police did not follow the regulations established by the Russian Interior Ministry," a report prepared by the committee said.

The report said police officers were not present at the school’s start-of-term ceremony on September 1, 2004, when terrorists took 1,128 hostages.