Eyewitnesses of hostage crisis say terrorists mined the school building

Terrorists tried to lure children with chocolates

Everything was fine and quiet in the morning of September 1st at school №1 in the North Ossetian town of Beslan in southern Russia. September 1st is celebrated in Russia nationwide as the Day of Knowledge – the start of a school year. There was a meeting in front of the school building – teachers were congratulating children, the latter were giggling and laughing.

A military GAZ-66 truck and a police car drove up to the building thirty minutes after the start of the meeting. Terrorists seized the police car and the officer in it on their way to the school, the Izvestia reports. About 15 armed people, with several women among them, jumped out of the truck.

Rosa Dudiyeva, a grandmother of a first-grade girl named Milana, told the Kommersant: “When the meeting was over, the daughter went to her class room with other children, and I stayed outside to talk to one of the teachers. A military truck appeared in front of the school building. People wearing camouflage and masks jumped out of the truck – I could see only their eyes and beards. They opened fire, everyone started running about. Some people, including myself, managed to hide behind a fence. We tried to peep out to see what was happening, but were scared to approach the building. Several gunmen stayed outside, near the entrance. They started screaming in very good Russian: “Russians, Russians, come here, don't be afraid!” One of the terrorists tried to lure children with a chocolate.”

Hostage crisis in North Ossetia: Photo galery

The terrorists, the Kommersant wrote, arrived in Beslan from the director of the settlement of Khurikau. They walked to the settlement from the woods, which borders on the Ingushetia republic. They took a local police officer Sultan Guradzhev hostage near Khurikau (the officer went to Ingushetia to repair his relative's car). After that the terrorists seized the GAZ-66 truck of one of the local residents. Guradzhev managed to escape from the terrorists. He said there were 18 terrorists in the group, including two female suicide bombers. In addition, they had two dogs. The terrorists, the newspaper wrote, had taken the animals along to use them as gas-analyzers. A dog will sense poisonous or sleeping gas a lot faster than a human being.

A ten-grade pupil Zaur Dzafarov managed to flee from the terrorists: “We were standing with our backs to the street and we did not see the truck. When we turned around, it was already there, people were jumping out of it, several men wearing masks were walking towards the school. There were two women among them, wearing black clothes. They were throwing some grenades, and then they started shooting and encircling us. I grabbed my little sister's hand and ran towards the trees. No one was shooting at us.”

Another boy, who also managed to escape, says the militants opened fire on him, when he was running: “I disliked them instantly after I saw them. They were all wearing black masks. So I made up my mind to run away.” The terrorists opened fire on the running boy, but he managed to scamper away.

”I saw them killing only one person,” eyewitness Ruslan Boroyev says. They shot a guy in the head, he is still lying in the school yard. When they forced hostages inside the building, several terrorists started unloading some big boxes from the truck.” The boxes were filled with grenades, self-made bombs, and anti-land mines. They drove the hostages into school gyms and mined the building. The terrorists placed most powerful bombs in school gyms, where the hostages are being kept.

”I have a sister in the building, Rosa,” Zinaida Tedzoyeva says. “I have been trying to call her for several hours, but in vain. The children, who fled from the school, say the militants had taken everybody's cell phones away. Do you think the Russian special services will use sleeping gas as they did during the hostage crisis in Moscow?” the woman asked.

The current crisis in North Ossetia is reminiscent of the terrorist act, which took place in Moscow two years ago, at the end of October 2002, when terrorists seized the Moscow music theatre. A police officer told a reporter from The Guardian that his son was inside the building. “A child's life is priceless. I will do all I can to save their lives. But if the government in Moscow orders to storm the school, I will kill the one, who issues such an order,” the officer said.

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Author`s name Olga Savka