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Last Updated: Friday, 10 September, 2004, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
What happened in Beslan?
By Robert Greenall
BBC News Online

Video footage of the hostages and one of the hostage-takers in the school gym in Beslan
The first explosion occurred as bombs were being rewired
A week after the bloody climax of the siege at a school in North Ossetia, where more than 1,000 children, teachers and parents were taken hostage, investigators are still piecing together what happened.

On Wednesday, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov gave President Vladimir Putin his account of the events on 1 September.

He said the hostage-takers assembled in a forest immediately before the attack on the school and headed for Beslan in a lorry and two jeeps.

At that stage, the target of the attack may not have been decided, he said.

The attackers were stopped in the early morning by a policeman, named as Major Sultan Gurazhev, whom they forced to the ground, disarmed and then took hostage.

Major Gurazhev was later to flee when the school was stormed, and survived.

Females blown up

The group then drove into the school compound, where they surrounded more than 1,200 children, parents and teachers gathered there to mark the first day of the new school year.

Mr Ustinov said the militants then moved their weapons and explosives into the school. This appears to contradict previous accounts suggesting most of the munitions had been hidden in the school in advance.

At this point, the official account says, the group's leader - known as the Colonel - shot dead one rebellious hostage-taker who objected to schoolchildren being targeted.

He later killed the two female bombers by using a remote-control device to detonate the explosives attached to their bodies.

This version of events was apparently confirmed by surviving hostages and the one hostage-taker who was captured alive, 24-year-old Nur-Pashi Kulayev from Chechnya.


The Colonel and two others then mined the school, and one militant was made to stand on a detonator. If he moved his foot the charges would go off.

The leading militants kept threatening to kill everyone, saying their only aim was to carry out this act of terrorism, Mr Ustinov said.

Soldier carries hostage from building
Russian special forces moved in to try to save the hostages after an explosion

On Friday, an explosion occurred while the militants were rewiring the explosives "for reasons best known to themselves", he continued.

In the ensuing panic many of the hostages tried to flee and the militants opened fire on them. Russian special forces then moved into the school to try to save the hostages.

It is still unclear whether any of the hostage-takers succeeding in fleeing, along with their victims, as reported at the time.

One group, which hid in the school basement, was eliminated in a gunfight with the security forces.

The prosecutor-general gave no details about the identities of the hostage-takers, whom he said numbered "around 30" and included two women.

Checkpoint police 'bribed'

However, the Associated Press news agency quoted security officials on Thursday who said that, of 10 who have been identified, six were Chechens and four were Ingush.

Other reports said that 12 have been identified, including Vladimir Khodov, a half-North Ossetian half-Ukrainian Muslim, who is thought to be one of the ringleaders.

There is now some doubt about the participation of Magomet Yevloyev, an ethnic Ingush field commander with the Chechen rebels, originally thought to be one of the key organisers.

And early reports that nine or 10 were Arabs have not been confirmed.

On Thursday, the Russky Kuryer newspaper reported that the captured hostage-taker, Nur-Pashi Kulayev, and one other, Mairbek Shaybekkhanov, had been arrested in Chechnya in 2002 and 2003, but freed after payoffs to be police.

Surviving hostages have told journalists that the attackers told them how they had bribed their way through police checkpoints to reach Beslan.

However, a police spokesman said they had used back roads that had no checkpoints.

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