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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 22:44 GMT 23:44 UK
Agony goes on for Beslan relatives
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC correspondent in Beslan

In the rubble of school number one a mother has left a poem dedicated, it says, to the little angels who died here.

The school ruins have been transformed into a shrine. Every day a steady stream of visitors brings tiny candles and lays flowers.

They brought water and food for the dead too, who were deprived of both for so long by their captors.

Relatives of victims with flowers
Everyone in Beslan has been touched by the tragedy
Boris Tagayev wanders through the ash and the debris in silence. He had flown in from Moscow to see the spot where his two nephews and their father were killed.

The family has found Alan's body. They believe their father was executed on the first day. The only trace of Aslan so far is his shoe.

"Aslan loves to wear beautiful things," Boris explains. "Those shoes were new, they belonged to another uncle, and that day he begged to wear them to school."

Raw grief

Just like many here Boris feels real anger at the authorities mixed with his anguish.

"I think it's criminal they hid the number of hostages," he says. "Everyone knew there were 1,200 in there, but shamelessly the authorities first said 120, then 300, then 350. It's cynical, how could they?"

I hope these DNA tests will finally give us some answers - we just want to say goodbye to our dead.
Local man
As Russia observed two days of official mourning, in Beslan there was raw grief. Harrowing scenes were played out on almost every street as mourners gathered around coffins. This tragedy has touched everyone here.

On Saturday Vitaly buried his entire family - his wife, his little girl and little boy. Their closed caskets stood side by side in their yard as friends and family approached to embrace them and wish them a final goodbye.

"There are no young people left in this family now," an elderly neighbour reflected as he watched the coffins pass. "I blame the government for this."

For two days as families loaded their coffins into cars, van and buses there was gridlock on the road to the cemetery.

Search goes on

As armed extremists took over the city's largest middle school, Beslan community centre close by became the meeting point for hundreds of desperate relatives.

The crowds who visit now are looking for news of the missing.

Almost 200 people remain unaccounted for four days after the siege was brought to its violent end.

Families have taped photos of smiling children to the walls and windows. Someone has added the front page of a local newspaper too. Its front page reads: "Help us find the children who disappeared in the hell of Beslan."

Kazbek's family has barely slept for days. He is looking for his 10-year-old nephew Timur and has had to inspect hundreds of corpses at the morgue himself.

He is convinced the authorities do not care about their suffering. There are specialists who could be helping us," Kazbek fumes. "They could do photo fits, or at least give lists saying if a body is a boy or a girl, how tall they are, how old. Making families open every bag for themselves is almost killing them too."

There were still 107 unidentified bodies in Vladikavkaz morgue on Tuesday morning, too damaged by fire and the explosions to be recognisable.

Talk of revenge

So now they are bussing families to the regional capital to give blood samples to forensic teams. DNA is the only way left to identify these dead.

Kazbek's family arrived at the city morgue with Timur's school photographs taped to the windscreen of their car.

The family hopes someone somewhere may have seen him.

"There were more than 1,000 people in that school. Now more than 300 are dead. What kind of rescue is that? They just burned our children alive," Timur's mother says, clutching one of her son's shoes close to her chest.

"We won't leave this unavenged," she says. "Everybody will get what they deserve."

With talk of revenge here widespread, the borders of North Ossetia have been sealed by order from Moscow.

Many believe those who planned this terror wanted to spark war across the Caucasus and nobody is taking any chances.

Another man giving blood at the morgue was looking for his cousin and her four-year-old daughter. He has found the body of her young son already, but wants to bury the family together.

"I hope these DNA tests will finally give us some answers," he said quietly. "We just want to say goodbye to our dead. I don't believe a miracle is possible now."


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