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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Eyewitness: Hostage terror
Man carries injured child from the school
Hundreds of hostages were killed and injured
Survivors of the Russian school siege have been giving details of their ordeal.

A teacher freed by the gang in the middle of the siege estimated there had been about 1,500 captives.

One boy who emerged on Friday, looking pale and anguished, told reporters he had been so shocked at his release he was unable to recognise his own parents.

Diana, another survivor, said people had had nothing to eat or drink.

"We were forced to urinate into bottles and drink our own urine through our shirts that we put over the top of them," she said.

They placed two big bombs in the basketball baskets and then laid cables connected to smaller charges right across the gym
Rita Gadzhinova
freed hostage

Many of the children who ran to safety after Friday's explosions began were in their underwear, having been kept herded together by their captors in the late summer heat.

Two boys, one of them injured, told Russia's NTV channel of the moment an explosion gave them a chance to escape.

"Suddenly there was an explosion," said one.

"And we lay down behind our chairs - I was lying full of fear," said the other.

Struggle to escape

Asked how he had got his injuries, the wounded boy said he had been trying to break windows along with others.

"People could not get out and were smashing the windows," he said.

"We were lucky really that we had plastic windows in our sports hall. Otherwise there would have been more cuts and injuries.

"I saw people running away in all directions. Some 200 or 300 people were running in the same direction as we were."

The boy said that the captors had opened fire on the escaping hostages.

"They were firing at the escaping people from the top of the roof," he told NTV.

The boys added that the first explosion had produced a lot of smoke while a second blast rained down burning debris.

Bombs in the gym

Rita Gadzhinova, a physics teacher, was freed by the gang on Thursday along with her three-year-old daughter, Madina, but was not allowed to take out her other two daughters, aged 11 and 14.

Some of the wounded were taken out of the gym and finished off right in the corridor
Zalina Dzandarova
freed hostage
In an interview for Russia's Izvestiya newspaper, she described how the gang had seized the school in a matter of minutes, taking hostage about 1,500 people, according to her calculations.

The attackers herded their captives into the gym where they planted two big bombs in the two basketball baskets and laid cables leading to other, smaller charges across the floor, said Ms Gadzhinova.

Asked to describe them, she said they had never removed their masks and always talked in a whisper, speaking in Russian with Chechen or Ingush accents. She said she could not tell how many of them there were and had not seen any women fighters in the gym.

They would fire into the ceiling to frighten their captives but did not abuse anyone, she said.

However, men among the hostages were periodically put up against windows as human shields, the teacher added.

"The youngest children were very frightened but they behaved with great discipline though they often asked to go to the toilet because of their fear," she said.

"They were marched to the toilet and if the toddlers started to cry the fighters would fire blanks in the air and shout for them to keep quiet."

'Finished off'

Fellow hostage Zalina Dzandarova, 27, said two women suicide bombers had blown themselves up in a corridor of the school on the first day of the siege, killing some male hostages.

"The men terrorists told us afterwards that their sisters had conquered," she said.

Speaking to Russia's Kommersant newspaper, she supported Mrs Gadzhinova's figure of 1,500 hostages and added that there seemed to have been about 30 gunmen.

Ms Dzandarova said the gunmen had shot dead at least 20 people on the first day of the siege.

They killed those who had been wounded during the invasion of the school and also killed any men who tried to resist them, she said.

"Some of the wounded were taken out of the gym and finished off right in the corridor," the former hostage added.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Inside the school conditions had been appalling"



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