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RFE/RL: Relatives Mark Third Beslan Anniversary [+ a comment]

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  • Norbert Strade
    Relatives Mark Third Beslan Anniversary September 1, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Russia today marks the third anniversary of the Beslan hostage tragedy in which more than
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2007
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      Relatives Mark Third Beslan Anniversary

      September 1, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Russia today marks the third anniversary
      of the Beslan hostage tragedy in which more than 330 people were killed,
      most of them children.

      But as bells tolled and tears fell, many of the victims' relatives
      expressed anger at the authorities for what they believe was a botched
      operation and an incomplete investigation.

      Thousands of people gathered for a memorial service in Beslan to mark
      the day when, exactly three years ago, armed militants herded more than
      1,000 parents, children, and teachers into the gymnasium of Beslan's
      School Number One. The hostage-takers were demanding that Russia
      withdraw its troops from neighboring Chechnya.

      The siege last three days and ended in a fierce battle between Russian
      security forces and militants that killed some 330 hostages, more than
      half of them children.

      Mourners today laid flowers and lit candles under the portraits of
      victims that line the walls of the charred gymnasium.

      No senior government official was in attendance.

      Putin Visit

      Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a brief homage to the Beslan
      victims during a visit to a school in the southern city of Astrakhan.

      "We cannot forget about these children who will never finish school. I
      am referring to the tragic events in Beslan. Today we must think about
      this too. But whatever happened, life nonetheless goes on both in the
      country and in the world," Putin said.

      In Beslan, however, time has failed to heal the emotional wounds, and
      the anniversary of the siege is marked by anger.

      Rita Sedakova, a member of the Beslan Mothers Committee support group,
      lost her daughter in the siege.

      "Our president, our ministers and generals, they're all still in their
      posts. We, mothers, are the ones who have been punished," Sedakova told
      RFE/RL's Russian Service. "After all we have endured, especially those
      mothers who were in the gymnasium and went through all of this
      physically, where are we supposed to find the strength to live on?"

      Cover-Up Accusations

      Families of the victims accuse the government of seeking to cover up
      what they believe was a botched rescue operation.

      They are angry that only one person has been brought to justice for the
      massacre -- Nurpashi Kulayev, who authorities claim is the only
      surviving hostage taker.

      Three local policemen were found guilty of negligence in the run-up to
      the siege but were granted amnesty earlier this year.

      Three years on, the hostage tragedy is still generating more questions
      than answers.

      Ella Kesayeva lost two nephews in the siege and questions why no one in
      the security forces was punished.

      "Why is there no objective investigation? Why is the evidence we gather
      and give to the prosecutor's office, to investigators, to courts, simply
      ignored? In Beslan, law-enforcement agencies, the army, special services
      -- those whose duty it is to rescue, defend, and protect people in this
      country -- abused their power. Instead of rescuing people, they used
      tanks and flame-throwers," Kesayeva said.


      Officials blame the hostage takers for starting the battle in which most
      hostages were killed by setting off a bomb inside the school. Aleksandr
      Torshin, the head of an official parliamentary commission investigating
      the events, has confirmed this version.

      But many survivors and witnesses accuse soldiers of provoking the
      massacre by firing a rocket-propelled grenade at the school, causing the
      roof to collapse and sparking a fierce blaze. Some also say they saw
      tanks fire on the school. (*)

      State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov, who laid flowers in the school today,
      vowed a thorough investigation.

      Dmitry Kozak, the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District,
      told relatives of victims in Beslan that the number of terror attacks in
      Russia has decreased by 40 percent over the past three years.

      But this is unlikely to ease the grief of those who lost their
      loved-ones in the massacre.

      Angry posters calling for the culprits to be called to account have been
      hung on the walls of ruins of School Number One. One reads: "Accomplices
      of terrorists are terrorists themselves." Another says "The authorities
      cannot be forgiven for allowing Beslan."

      (RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report)


      * As I've said here many times before, at least one tank approaching the
      school and firing was reported *live* on SkyNews. Furthermore, they
      didn't just fire one grenade but many, and most likely also missiles at
      the roof from a helicopter. Today I heard an interview with a local
      explosives expert (they didn't give his name) on German public service
      NDR Info news radio. He said that the explosion of the alleged bomb
      inside the school building couldn't have created the hole in the wall,
      that would need at least the power of a grenade fired from a grenade
      discharger. Besides that, the impact came from the outside and not from
      the inside [which everyone can see if you look at the published images
      of the hole, N.S.]. He also stated that the direction of the impact can
      be established from the form of the hole, which shows that the grenade
      was fired from the roof of an adjacent apartment building [the very same
      building on the roof of which local inhabitants (!) found used barrels
      of grenade dischargers, among them also several of a type that fired FAE
      charges (fuel-air-explosives)]. All these things were clear to anyone
      who followed the live reporting on various TV channels on that day.
      It's really amazing that these established facts - some of which, like
      the FAEs, were analyzed publicly and officially in two court cases -
      still appear as a kind of "hearsay" in the media reports. But on the
      other hand, if the media acknowledged the facts, they would have to draw
      the logical conclusion, something they are afraid of saying aloud.
      Namely, that the Russian state is in the hands of a terrorist
      organization. N.S.
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