Videotape of Chechen terrorists preparing for Beslan hostage-taking found

331 residents of North Ossetia, including 186 children and 145 adults were killed in the horrible terrorist act in Beslan

The Associated Press obtained a videotape, which contains the footage of Chechen terrorists preparing the terrorist act in Beslan. The tape shows notorious Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev apparently preparing for last year's horrific hostage crisis in North Ossetia, a republic in southern Russia.

The video shows Shamil Basayev along with several other fighters camped out in a forest. There was no way to immediately determine its authenticity, but prosecutors have said such videos are not uncommon in Chechnya and other southern Russian regions. They can be produced by militants often with Arabic soundtracks to try to attract financing for Chechen terrorists. 

Basayev, who has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 1-3 hostage taking at Beslan's School No. 1 in which more than 330 adults and children died, is seen in the video in his trademark black beard and camouflage fatigues.

In one frame, several fighters can be seen sitting on the ground in a forest smiling and talking. A man in glasses, a beard and dressed in fatigues resembles Abu Dzeit, a Kuwaiti national and alleged al-Qaida liaison who was killed by security forces in February. He is sitting cross-legged on the ground, apparently translating from Arabic for a man seated next to him, AP reports.

The horrific hostage crisis in Beslan, Septebmer 1-3, 2004: Photo gallery

Later, the man who looks like Abu Dzeit holds up an optical gun sight for the video, speaking in what sounds like Arabic. At another point, the video camera zooms in on a man known as the Colonel, who allegedly led the raid on Beslan's School No. 1. The interviewer asks in Russian if the Colonel is longing for Allah, and the Colonel responds yes.

In another frame, several men can be seen in a thick forest wearing fatigues and laughing. One man points at a collection of tarps and ground pads, telling the interviewer it is the fighters' mosque.

Later, a man is shown in a rain poncho, smiling and laughing, followed by the man known as the Colonel. Another section shows Basayev and other terrorists huddled under plastic tarps in a forest as rain falls around them. Basayev and Abu Dzeit are shown holding up the fingers and smiling.

A later part of the video shows Basayev amid a stash of weaponry, allegedly during a June 2004 raid in Ingushetia, which borders both Chechnya and North Ossetia, where Beslan is located. Russian authorities say that some of the weapons seized in the Ingushetia raid were used in the Beslan hostage-taking, and that the militants used several camps in Ingushetia and North Ossetia to prepare for the raid.

Three hundred and thirty-one residents of North Ossetia, including 186 children and 145 adults were killed in the horrible terrorist act committed in Beslan a year ago on September 1-3. Almost 960 people suffered in the hostage crisis: 319 adults and 639 children. About 700 people (419 children among them) received inpatient treatment at hospitals of North Ossetia, Rostov-on-Don, Germany and Moscow. 

Residents of North Ossetia are starting the three-day mourning to mark one year since the horror of the hostage crisis in Beslan. Mourning ceremonies will take place across the republic during September 1-3. The people, who suffered in the attack or lost their loved ones in the siege, asked to conduct all the ceremonies in silence.

Hundreds of mourners carrying red carnations and roses filed into the gutted gymnasium of Beslan's School No. 1 on Thursday, gathering to commemorate the anniversary of the hostage tragedy that claimed 331 lives. Sobs could be heard inside the gymnasium, where more than 1,100 hostages had been forced to sit amid bombs laced around the hall, enduring thirst, hunger and terror. People walked slowly along the periphery, stopping to examine large portraits of the victims - more than half of them children - that were hung on the walls, as the morning sun peeked through the shattered roof. Many covered their faces in grief.

A large red banner decorated with white doves and the names of children around the world hung on one of the walls of the school, and the gaping holes left by the windows were stuffed with bouquets of flowers. The sound of a bell tolling was broadcast through loudspeakers, followed by mournful orchestral and vocal music.

The school year begins in Russia on September 1, although it will start on September 5 in Beslan, when the mourning ends.

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Author`s name Olga Savka