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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 September, 2004, 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK
Hostage town buries its children
A coffin is buried as other graves are dug in Beslan
Even as one victim is buried, other graves are dug
The people of Beslan in Russia have begun to bury their children and relatives, some of the hundreds massacred in a school siege.

To the sound of women wailing, and even as more graves were being dug in surrounding plots, small coffins were lowered into the ground.

The agony continues for some parents, still uncertain if their children died.

Meanwhile, Russian television has shown pictures of a suspect claimed to be one of the hostage-takers.

The handcuffed man is shown being dragged into a room by two commandoes, where he makes an appeal for his life to the camera.

The footage appears to confirm an earlier claim that some of the 30-plus hostage-takers were captured alive.

Police in Beslan say they have made three arrests in connection with the siege.

Still missing

In addition to the gunmen, authorities say nearly 335 people died in the bloodbath that ended the siege, after pro-Chechen gunmen took over the school.

Nearly 200 people are still officially missing.

Photographs of casualties too young or traumatised to give their names have been posted on hospital notice boards, alongside the lists of patients under treatment.

Unidentified mourners in Beslan
When a person goes to the cemetery for a burial, it's sad, but nothing like this - when you dig graves for your children
Anzor Kudziyev
Volunteer grave-digger

Meanwhile, mothers carry pictures of their loved ones, hoping someone will tell them they have been seen alive.

But those who have found their dead began to bury them on Sunday.

In the morning, heartbroken relatives gathered around open coffins in their homes.

Later, they trooped to the main cemetery in processions, tears pouring down their faces.

Twenty-four victims were buried on Sunday, and some 150 fresh graves have been dug in preparation for the funerals that will continue for many days.

"I wanted to help," 25-year-old Anzor Kudziyev, one of some 60 volunteer grave-diggers, told the Associated Press news agency.

"When a person goes to the cemetery for a burial, it's sad, but nothing like this - when you dig graves for your children."

Special church services were held for the victims across the country.

Russia has announced two days of national mourning to begin on Monday. Flags will fly at half-mast and light entertainment will be dropped from TV channels.

Desperate search

Children at the school had been celebrating the start of the new school year with parents and staff on Wednesday morning when the heavily-armed gang took them hostage.

1 - At 0850 GMT 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.


The crisis ended in carnage on Friday, as Russian troops moved in after bombs went off inside the building.

Of those who escaped, nearly 400 people including 184 children were still in hospital in North Ossetia on Sunday evening, the Russian Itar-Tass news agency said.

At least 46 children have been flown to hospitals in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don, the agency said.

Many of them have brain injuries. Azamat Mugakov, an 18-month-old baby, was admitted with a bullet wound to the stomach.

After what happened in Beslan, I don't have the right to occupy this post as an officer and as a man
Kazbek Dzantiyev
Regional Interior Minister

President Vladimir Putin has vowed to step up security in the wake of the tragedy and North Ossetia's regional Interior Minister, Kazbek Dzantiyev, has resigned.

"After what happened in Beslan, I don't have the right to occupy this post as an officer and as a man," Mr Dzantiyev was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

Russian security services are investigating reports that weapons were smuggled into the school by the hostage-takers and hidden there in preparation for the siege.

One survivor reported that adults had been taken into the school gym and made to rip up the floorboards.

Underneath were weapons, ammunition and explosives, he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"Beslan is burying its children"



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