Photos of Russia’s Strong Response to a 2004 Terrorist Attack

Sputnik International

The Beslan school siege was a three-day hostage crisis that started on September 1, 2004. Armed Chechen Islamists occupied School Number One in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia (an autonomous republic in the North Caucus region of the Russian Federation).

On the first day of school, Knowledge Day, a day in which the children, accompanied by their parents, attend ceremonies, a group of Islamic-nationalist guerillas overran the school. During the initial chaos, up to 50 people were able to escape and alert authorities of the situation. A firefight ensued between the terrorists and local police and an armed civilian.

The attackers took approximately 1,100 hostages. Mobil phones were confiscated. The terrorists then selected 15-20 hostages who were the strongest looking adults, lead them into a room, and killed them all with an explosive.

The terrorists had all the hostages in the gym, which was rigged with explosives.

On the second day of the siege, the terrorists allowed Ruslan Aushev, the ex-Soviet Army general, to enter the school and release 11 nursing women and all 15 babies. Hostages, who were given no food or water, were fainting from the heat in the gym.

On the third and final day of the siege, one of the explosives planted in the gym detonated and caused a large fire, which would eventually kill 160 hostages. During the fire, many hostages tried to escape and they were shot at by the terrorists. The military returned fire. A chaotic battle ensued with tanks, an attack helicopter, and civilians joining the battle with their own weapons. Special forces fired between three and nine rockets at the school. Two hours after the assault began, Russian troops claimed control of most of the school.

The terrorists were part of the Riyadus-Salikhin Battalion, sent by the Chechan warlord Shamil Basayev, who demanded recognition of the independent state of Chechnya. A note sent out of the school with a released hostage read:

From Allah’s slave Shamil Basayev to President Putin,

Vladimir Putin, it was not you who started this war. But you can finish it if you have enough courage and determination of de Gaulle. We offer you a sensible peace based on mutual benefit by the principle independence in exchange for security. In case of troops withdrawal and acknowledgement of independence of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, we are obliged not to make any political, military, or economic treaties with anyone against Russia, not to accommodate foreign military bases on our territory even temporarily, not to support and not to finance groups or organizations carrying out a military struggle against RF, to be present in the united ruble zone, to enter the Commonwealth of Independent States. Besides, we can sign a treaty even though a neutral state status is more acceptable to us. We can also guarantee a renunciation of armed struggle against Russian Federation by all Muslims of Russia for at least 10 to 15 years under a condition of freedom of faith. We are not related to the apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, but we can take responsibility for this in an acceptable way.

The Chechen people are leading a nation-liberating struggle for its freedom and independence, for its self-protection rather than for destruction or humiliation of Russia. We offer you peace, but the choice is yours.

Allahu Akbar

334 people were killed during the crisis including 186 children.

Classmates on the first day of school. None of those pictured survived. Diana Markosian: Time
Russian soldiers take their position near the school where a group of gunmen, wearing explosive suicide belts, held the hostages. CNN
Soldiers wait in position near the school in Beslan. Russian commandos were able to take over the school and freed many hostages on the third day of the siege. CNN
A soldier takes cover as special forces storm the school to free the remaining hostages. CNN (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)
A special police soldier carries an injured colleague, as two soldiers and two women take cover behind an armored personnel carrier during the siege. CNN
A video still shows over a thousand hostages in the gym of Beslan Secondary School No. 1 during the September 2004 siege (AFP Photo: NTV)
Medics rush with a stretcher towards the burning gymnasium. Pinterest
A Russian policeman and volunteers carry a stretcher with an injured schoolgirl during the rescue operation. CNN
A soldier is rescuing a girl and a woman, Beslan, September 1, 2004. Pinterest
A soldier rescued a baby girl from the conflict. Pinterest
Freed children comforting each other. Pinterest
Locals comfort children during the rescue operation at Beslan school. Around 700 local residents were wounded in the hostage siege. CNN
Rescued children are carried away from the school. Pinterest