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 Attackers seize hundreds at Russian school, mostly children; 8 reported dead

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BESLAN, Russia - More than a dozen militants wearing suicide-bomb belts seized a southern Russian school in a region bordering Chechnya on Wednesday, taking an estimated 300 hostages — many of them children — and threatening to blow up the building if police storm it. As many as eight people have been reported killed, one of them a parent.

Hours into the desperate standoff, security officials said they had made brief contact with the hostage-takers, believed to be Chechen rebels.

Russian special forces wearing camouflage and carrying heavy-caliber machine guns surrounded Middle School No. 1. About 1,000 people, mostly parents, were massed the three-story building in the town of Beslan, demanding information and accusing the government of failing to protect their children.

There was confusion over the number of hostages, but local police estimated that between 300 and 400 teachers and students were being held in the school.


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 Re: Attackers seize hundreds at Russian school, mostly children; 8 reported dead




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Christians are being asked to pray for a hostage situation near the Russian/Chechen border. More than a dozen militants wearing suicide-bomb belts seized a southern Russian school yesterday. The rebels took 400 people hostage—half of them children—threatening to blow up the building if police storm it.

Russian Ministries’ Sergey Rakhuba says two of their leaders were affected. “One of them is (the) coordinator for (the) region there and the other one is the pastor of the church there in Belsan. And it happens that they are brothers by blood and by faith and their eight children are there - all of their children are there.”

Rakhuba is pleading for prayer. “Pray for all Christians families that are involved that through a special way that they’ll be able to show God’s love and hope in Christ there.”

Russian Ministries has been actively involved at this school last year. “We were able to distribute in this school, the Russian Christmas shoe boxes. I was there. I had dinner with these leaders and their children.”

The militants want those arrested in connection with their attacks on police facilities in neighboring Ingushetia back in June.


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 Re: Attackers seize hundreds at Russian school, mostly children; 8 reported dead





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Group released from siege school
September 02
BBC reporting

Armed attackers have freed a number of women and children from a school in south Russia, where they are still holding more than 300 people hostage.
The release of 32 hostages came well into the second day of the crisis, after blasts and gunfire were heard.
Officials ruled out using force to end the siege in North Ossetia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said the hostages’ safety was paramount.
Hundreds of desperate parents are waiting outside the school in Beslan.
Women cradling very small children emerged from the building and were whisked away in cars by Russian security forces, as the crowd rushed forward to find out who had been freed.

Russian press in agony
Officials said the breakthrough came after mediation efforts by the former president of the neighbouring region of Ingushetia and that negotiations would continue.
As the siege continued, anger and frustration was growing among the families. Some of the hostages have reportedly been able to phone home, describing conditions in the school as tolerable.

Inside are pupils, teachers and parents who had come to the school on Wednesday morning to help celebrate the first day of term.
“Our main task is to save the life and health of those who have ended up as hostages,” said President Putin who cancelled a working holiday and visit to Turkey to deal with the crisis.

The head of the Russian security service in North Ossetia has said there is “no question” of opting for force at the moment.
“There will be a lengthy and tense process of negotiation,” Valery Andreyev was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
North Ossetia’s Interior Minister Kazbek Dzantiyev said 12 civilians had been killed since the siege began, Itar-Tass reports.

The hostage-takers began talking overnight to prominent paediatrician Lev Roshal, who helped negotiate the release of children during the siege of a Moscow theatre in 2002. Mr Roshal said they refused offers to deliver food and water, but he was assured the children were fine.

Trip wires
Masked men and women, wearing bomb belts, burst into the school, whose pupils are aged seven to 18, at around 0930 local time (0530 GMT) on Wednesday.
The hostages were herded into the gym. Up to 50 children were reported to have escaped in the confusion. Trip wires are believed to have been laid around the school, with the attackers threatening to blow it up if stormed by police.

Mr Dzantiyev was quoted as saying on Wednesday they threatened to kill 50 children for every fighter killed. The hostage-takers are reported to have demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya and the release of Chechen rebels held in Ingushetia.

‘International terrorism’
The Russian authorities are blaming what they call international terrorism, with suspicion falling on Chechen separatists, who have been fighting for independence from Moscow for the past decade.
Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov has denied that his forces are involved in the siege.
The school crisis came a day after a suspected suicide bombing in Moscow killed 10 people. Last week, the mid-air explosions of two passenger planes left 89 dead.


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 Re: Attackers seize hundreds at Russian school, mostly children; 8 reported dead





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CHRISTIAN STUDENTS, MISSIONARIES AMONG HOSTAGES HELD IN RUSSIA

Explosions rocked a school in southern Russia today where hundreds of hostages are being held, including more than 50 Christian schoolchildren and two missionaries. Reporters said they saw ”large plumes of black smoke rising over the building” but were unable to provide any explanation for the two blasts. Officials said militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at two cars that got too close to the school, but neither car was hit.

Shortly after the explosions, camouflaged security agents carried babies to safety as militants released 31 women and children. Officials expressed hope that negotiations would bring more progress in the standoff. The developments came after a night of telephone negotiations between Russian authorities and about 20 heavily armed militants who stormed the middle school early Wednesday, Sept. 1, on the first day of classes of the new school year. They rounded up more than 350 children and adults and began threatening to blow up the building if police launched an assault. All of the hostages are being held in the gymnasium with children placed in the windows as human shields. Reports vary, but at least seven people have already been killed, including a parent of one of the schoolchildren, a girl and two policemen.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped to avoid the use of force to end the hostage crisis in the town of Beslan in the Russian republic of North Ossetia, the Voice of America reported. The militants, who are believed to be from the troubled neighboring Russian republic of Chechnya, reportedly rejected an offer of safe passage out of the area and a request to exchange adults for about 100 of the children being held.

An official from Russian Ministries which is actively supporting the school, told Mission Network News (MNN) that two staff members and their Christian children were inside the complex. ”One of them is the coordinator for the region there, and the other one is the pastor of the church there in Beslan,” said Sergey Rakhuba. ”And it happens that they are brothers by blood and by faith and that all eight of their children are there.” Russian Ministries Director Genady Terkun, who was outside the school grounds, told reporters that ”many of the children were very excited about the beginning of school and happy because they had just returned from summer camps . . . where they learned about Jesus.”

Meanwhile, violence by Chechen rebels is forcing many Russians to think about spiritual things. HCJB World Radio missionary Mark Irwin, who lives in Moscow, told MNN that he lives just two subway stations away from the location of a suicide bombing earlier this week. He said Russians are searching for answers. ”When it comes down to things such as terrorism, I think people look for answers to life’s real questions that face us in life. That’s even more reason why we need to develop Christian radio in this country so that people will know the hope that’s only be found in Jesus.” The ministry continues to expand Christian radio in Russia. ”We’re doing everything we can to develop the local Christian broadcasting infrastructure,” Irwin says. ”That includes training people . . . and developing studios so that people will have the equipment with which to make their own radio programs.”

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 Re: Attackers seize hundreds at Russian school, mostly children; 8 reported dead





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Bloody end to Russia school siege

Russian troops have stormed the school in North Ossetia where hundreds of children and adults have been held hostage since Wednesday. All hostages are now reported to have been brought out of the school, but there are continuing scenes of chaos.
Heavy gunfire and loud explosions were heard as ambulances rushed scores of casualties to nearby hospitals. Unconfirmed reports say that at least 10 people have been killed and up to 200 wounded.

Several of the hostage takers are also reported to have died in exchanges of fire with troops as they tried to escape, Reuters reports. Some have blown themselves up, but others appear to have got away, says the BBC’s Jonathan Charles.
Correspondents say many of those released were desperate for water when they came out, and some were barely able to stand.
The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford said at least 150 children have been taken to hospital. A large number of people had earlier been seen fleeing the premises, many of them covered in blood. Helicopters hovered overhead and there were troops everywhere.

The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford says a man who had been inside the building told her there had been an explosion and a wall had collapsed. This had been followed by gunfire and many more explosions. It is unclear what caused the initial explosion.

Pandemonium
There is pandemonium in the streets surrounding the school, says the BBC’s Damian Grammaticas, who is also at the scene.
On Thursday, 26 women and young children were released, and some of them provided the first details of conditions inside the school.
“You know there are not 300 people in there, but altogether 1,500. People are lying on top of each other,” 27-year-old teacher Zalina Dzandarova told the Kommersant newspaper. Officials put the number of hostages at 354 before Thursday’s release, although the school has more than 1,000 pupils.
Trip wires were believed to have been laid around the school, with the attackers threatening to blow it up if it was stormed by police.

Hundreds of relatives of those being held inside the school who had been waiting anxiously outside the security cordon reacted in panic to the outbreak of fighting.
Officials said the release of the 26 people on Thursday came after mediation efforts by the former President of the neighbouring region of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev.
The attackers - both men and women, some wearing bomb belts - struck on Wednesday, the first day of the new school year in Russia. Many parents and other relatives were inside the school, helping their children celebrate the new year, when the assault began. The hostage-takers are Chechen and they were demanding full independence for their republic, says the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford.

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 Re: Attackers seize hundreds at Russian school, mostly children; 8 reported dead





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Eyewitness: Hostage terror

Survivors of the Russian school siege have been giving details of their ordeal. A teacher freed by the gang in the middle of the siege estimated there had been about 1,500 captives.
One boy who emerged on Friday, looking pale and anguished, told reporters he had been so shocked at his release he was unable to recognise his own parents.
Diana, another survivor, said people had had nothing to eat or drink.
“We were forced to urinate into bottles and drink our own urine through our shirts that we put over the top of them,” she said.

Many of the children who ran to safety after Friday’s explosions began were in their underwear, having been kept herded together by their captors in the late summer heat.
Two boys, one of them injured, told Russia’s NTV channel of the moment an explosion gave them a chance to escape.
“Suddenly there was an explosion,” said one.
“And we lay down behind our chairs - I was lying full of fear,” said the other.

Struggle to escape
Asked how he had got his injuries, the wounded boy said he had been trying to break windows along with others.
“People could not get out and were smashing the windows,” he said.
“We were lucky really that we had plastic windows in our sports hall. Otherwise there would have been more cuts and injuries.
“I saw people running away in all directions. Some 200 or 300 people were running in the same direction as we were.”

The boy said that the captors had opened fire on the escaping hostages.
“They were firing at the escaping people from the top of the roof,” he told NTV.
The boys added that the first explosion had produced a lot of smoke while a second blast rained down burning debris.

Bombs in the gym
Rita Gadzhinova, a physics teacher, was freed by the gang on Thursday along with her three-year-old daughter, Madina, but was not allowed to take out her other two daughters, aged 11 and 14.
In an interview for Russia’s Izvestiya newspaper, she described how the gang had seized the school in a matter of minutes, taking hostage about 1,500 people, according to her calculations.

The attackers herded their captives into the gym where they planted two big bombs in the two basketball baskets and laid cables leading to other, smaller charges across the floor, said Ms Gadzhinova.
Asked to describe them, she said they had never removed their masks and always talked in a whisper, speaking in Russian with Chechen or Ingush accents. She said she could not tell how many of them there were and had not seen any women fighters in the gym.
They would fire into the ceiling to frighten their captives but did not abuse anyone, she said.

However, men among the hostages were periodically put up against windows as human shields, the teacher added.
“The youngest children were very frightened but they behaved with great discipline though they often asked to go to the toilet because of their fear,” she said.
“They were marched to the toilet and if the toddlers started to cry the fighters would fire blanks in the air and shout for them to keep quiet.”

‘Finished off’
Fellow hostage Zalina Dzandarova, 27, said two women suicide bombers had blown themselves up in a corridor of the school on the first day of the siege, killing some male hostages.
“The men terrorists told us afterwards that their sisters had conquered,” she said.
Speaking to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, she supported Mrs Gadzhinova’s figure of 1,500 hostages and added that there seemed to have been about 30 gunmen.
Ms Dzandarova said the gunmen had shot dead at least 20 people on the first day of the siege.
They killed those who had been wounded during the invasion of the school and also killed any men who tried to resist them, she said.
“Some of the wounded were taken out of the gym and finished off right in the corridor,” the former hostage added.


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 Re: Attackers seize hundreds at Russian school, mostly children; 8 reported dead



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CHRISTIAN CHILDREN AMONG CASUALTIES IN RUSSIAN HOSTAGE CRISIS

Commandos stormed a middle school today in southern Russia and battled separatist rebels holding hundreds of hostages as crying children—some naked and covered in blood—fled through explosions and gunfire. Gennady Terkun, Russian Ministries’ regional director for the area, said the exact number of casualties is not known, but is estimated to be approximately 150.

More than 100 bodies were reportedly found in the gymnasium where the hostages had been held. The extent of the casualties was not immediately known. The militants, who were demanding independence for nearby Chechnya, had been holding up to 1,500 hostages—mostly women and children—in the sweltering gymnasium for more than two days. Dozens of hostages were killed or injured when the roof of the gym collapsed from an explosion. The school is in Beslan, a town of 30,000 in the Russian republic of North Ossetia.

Soldiers and civilians were seen carrying wounded children to a temporary hospital set up behind an armored personnel carrier. Many of the children were only partly clothed because of the stifling heat in the gym where they had been held since the militants took the building the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 1. The hostage-takers had refused to let food or water into the school throughout the standoff. The final stage of the crisis began after militants agreed to let authorities retrieve the bodies of people killed early in the raid. Explosions went off as the emergency personnel entered the building around 1 p.m., and the hostages took the noise as a signal to flee, officials said.

Sergey Rakhuba, executive director of Russian Ministries, said the hostages included the children of brothers Sergey and Taymuraz Totiev (both pastors) and about 50 children from a church with which the ministry partners. Terkun reported that two of the Totiev children—a daughter named Madena and a son named Azum—have been found in the local hospital. ”Sergey Totiev’s 9-year old daughter, Anna, was killed, her body found in the morgue. Her parents have not seen her yet, and it is hoped that she was misidentified. The remaining five Totiev children (or six if Anna was misidentified) are still missing,” he wrote. Russian Ministries has established the Fear Not Fund to provide spiritual counseling and material assistance to children and families affected by this act of terrorism, and to provide help to local churches ministering in the aftermath of terrorist acts.

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 Putin Urges Strength; School Toll Tops 340, Half Children

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BESLAN, Russia - A shaken President Vladimir Putin made a rare and candid admission of Russian weakness Saturday in the face of an "all-out war" by terrorists after more than 340 people — nearly half of them children — were killed in a hostage-taking at a southern school.

Putin went on national television to tell Russians they must mobilize against terrorism. He promised wide-ranging reforms to toughen security forces and purge corruption.

"We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten," he said in a speech aimed at addressing the grief, shock and anger felt by many after a string of attacks that have killed some 450 people in the past two weeks, apparently in connection with the war in Chechnya.

Shocked relatives wandered among row after row of bodies lined up in black or clear plastic body bags on the pavement at a morgue in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, where the dead from the school standoff in the town of Beslan were taken. In some open bags lay the contorted, thin bodies of children, some monstrously charred.

In Beslan, people scoured lists of names to see if their loved ones survived the chaos of the day before, when the standoff turned violent Friday as militants set off explosives in the school and commandos moved in to seize the building.

Beslan residents were allowed to enter the burned-out husk that was once the gymnasium of School No. 1, where more than 1,000 hostages were held during the 62-hour ordeal that started Wednesday. The gym's roof was destroyed, windows shattered, walls pocked with bullet holes.


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5 CHRISTIAN CHILDREN STILL MISSING AFTER RUSSIAN HOSTAGE CRISIS

Prayer and memorial services were underway in Russia and the U.S. after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Monday and Tuesday as national days of mourning for the hundreds of people who died in the three-day hostage drama at a middle school in Beslan in the Russian republic of North Ossetia.
Russian Ministries, a U.S.-backed Christian aid organization working in the devastated region, said two of its Russian pastors who lost children in the tragedy would lead a group memorial service in Beslan today, September 08.
Pastors Sergey and Taymuraz Totiev, two brothers, “had eight children” among the hostages. “Of the eight children, two are injured, one has died (8-year-old Anna) and five remain unaccounted for,” Russian Ministries reported. It was not immediately clear if the Totievs had managed to reach a nearby hospital to search for these children.

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 Re: Attackers seize hundreds at Russian school, mostly children; 8 reported dead



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6 OF RUSSIAN PASTORS’ 8 CHILDREN CONFIRMED DEAD IN HOSTAGE CRISIS

After days of searching for their children, pastors and brothers Taymuraz and Sergey Totiev in the southern Russian town of Beslan, North Ossetia, have discovered that six of their eight children died in the recent hostage drama.
“Tragically, out of the eight Totiev children who were in the school, only two have survived,” said Sergey Rakhuba, vice president of U.S.-backed Russian Ministries in a statement. The children of Taymuraz and Ria Totiev who died were identified as Larissa, 14, Luba, 12, Albina, 11, and Boris, 8.
“A daughter named Magina was found, released from the hospital, and is recovering at home,” Rakhuba added.

The children of Sergey and Bela Totiev who died were Dzerassa, 15, and Anna, 9. A son, Azamat, 12, is in the hospital and is being treated for a “severe eye injury.” The children are believed to have died Friday, Sept. 3, during a gun battle between Russian forces storming the school complex and militants demanding independence for neighboring Chechnya.
News about the deaths came after two days of national mourning in Russia. While thousands of people gathered in the town square in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russian Ministries led a prayer meeting on the front lawn of its office building in Wheaton, Ill.
More than 1,200 people were taken hostage in Beslan, near Chechnya. At least 326 were killed—half of them children—and 727 wounded, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said. Only 210 bodies have been identified.


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