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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 September, 2004, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Agony as school death toll rises
Ossetians read lists of hostages who survived
Relatives of victims of the school hostage siege in southern Russia are enduring an agonising wait for news as the death toll continues to rise.

More than 320 bodies have been pulled from the rubble of the school so far, officials say, but many of the victims have still to be identified.

Local people scoured hospital wards and searched for bodies at the town morgue.

Meanwhile, President Putin has called on the Russian people to stand together and confront the threat of terrorism.

Today we must be together - this is the only way for us to defeat the enemy
Vladimir Putin

In a televised address to the nation, he said the country had to stand up to terror, as the alternative meant submitting to blackmail or giving in to panic.

Terror, he said, was a challenge not just to the president but to the whole nation.

Mr Putin said international terrorists had declared "full-scale war" on Russia and, because of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nation had been unable to respond effectively.

He proposed a new approach to law enforcement and vowed to increase border security.

"We stopped giving enough attention to questions of defence and security, and allowed corruption to infect our judicial and law enforcement sphere," he said.

Bodies recovered

Work to clear the school, in the North Ossetian town of Beslan, has been slowed by the presence of mines in the building, where militants demanding Chechen independence held children and adults for three days.

1 - At 0850GMT a vehicle from the emergencies ministry is sent in to retrieve the bodies of those killed at the start of the siege.
2 - A series of blasts rock the gym, bringing the roof down.
3 - Hostages start running. The attackers fire at them to try to block their escape, prompting the troops outside to shoot back.

A Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky said bodies were still being identified - 322 had been recovered so far, of which 155 were children.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles in Beslan says there have been angry scenes, with many relatives accusing the government of denying them information about their loved ones.

One woman, who was looking for her nephew, told the BBC what she saw.

"I've been to the morgue to look for him," she said. "There were so many bodies - so many small children. I saw one woman sitting there stroking the heads of two children, she didn't even have the strength left to cry."

Children at the school had been celebrating the start of the new school year with parents and staff when they were seized by militants on Wednesday morning.

A sombre Mr Putin, who himself visited some of the injured in Beslan on Saturday morning, said the whole of Russia was grieving with the families.

"In recent days every one of us has been deeply suffering and feeling in our hearts what has been happening in the town of Beslan." he said.

If the toddlers started to cry, the fighters would fire blanks in the air

He paid tribute to the courage of its people.

"In Beslan, literally saturated with sorrow and pain, people have been concerned with, and have supported each other," he said.

And they have not been afraid to put themselves at risk for the lives and calm of others. Even in the most inhuman conditions, they remained people."

He said the ordeals had brought the Russian people closer together.

"Today we must be together," he said. "This is the only way for us to defeat the enemy."

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"Many of these families are only now finding out that their children have died"

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