Russia : Ossetia : Stay away from school, gunmen tell police
Stay away from school, gunmen tell police
September 01 2004 at 10:42AM
By Jim Heintz
Moscow - A group of attackers bearing guns and reportedly wrapped in suicide-bomb belts seized an elementary school in the Russian region of North Ossetia on Wednesday morning and were holding hundreds of hostages, including 200 children.
The seizure took place on the first day of the Russian school year, when a large number of parents had accompanied their children to class. Reports said the raid took place just after a ceremony marking the school year's start, when the attackers drove up in a covered truck.
Gunfire broke out after the raid and at least three teachers and two police officers were wounded, said Andrei Polyansky, a police spokesperson for southern Russia.
The ITAR-Tass news agency, citing regional emergency officials, said about 400 people - including 200 children - were being held captive. A regional police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the hostages had been herded into the school gymnasium.
The attackers warned they would blow up the school if police tried to storm it and demanded talks with regional officials, news reports said, but it was not what could be at issue if the talks occur. No demands have been made public.
In footage from outside the school in the town of Beslan on television channel NTV, men in camouflage with heavy-calibre machine guns took up positions on the perimeter and other men in civilian dress with light automatic rifles paced nervously.
At one point, a girl in a floral print dress and a red bow in her hair streaked around a corner apparently after fleeing from the school, followed by an older woman.
The Interfax news agency, citing Ismel Shaov, a regional spokesperson for the Federal Security Service, said there were 17 attackers, both male and female, and the gang included some who were wearing suicide-bomb belts.
The in the city of Beslan, about 15km north of Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, a republic that borders warring Chechnya.
There were no immediate reports of whether the assailants were making demands or indications of who they were. - Sapa-AP