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    FORMER HOSTAGE ON TRAGEDY IN BESLAN

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    MOSCOW, September 5 (RIA Novosti) - Former hostages say that the terrorists shot people in order to show that they were not joking.

    As soon as the terrorists locked themselves up in the school, they shot a man aged 40 before the very eyes of all hostages, a former hostage by the name of Alina, who had been kept by terrorists in the Beslan school with her eight-year-old daughter Ilona, told RIA Novosti.

    "On the first day, it started raining and a thunderstorm began. After the first rumble of thunder, the militants jumped up from their seats and snatched weapons, grenades and explosive devices. They shouted that if it was an assault, they would blow up everybody, said Alina.

    In her words, the militants were very nervous, however, after a while, they calmed down, realizing that this was a thunderstorm. "Later, the militants led out about 20 men and shot them dead either in the hallway or in a classroom. The men did not know that the militants were going to kill them, they were told that they must go to another room, but after a while we heard shots and cries and everything became clear to us," said Alina.

    "The militants stated that if their demands were not met, everyone would remain alive, otherwise, they would blow up all of us," she said. In her words, there was nothing left but to pray.

    Towards the evening of the second day, all terrorists became very nervous. At night they led aged women to the old gym and planted explosives along its perimeter. Children had a fit of hysterics.

    "On the second day women were nearly losing consciousness, she recalls. In the morning of September 3, the militants stopped reacting to our requests for water and food. "Die where you are," they said.

    "In the morning of the third day I asked them for some water for a child who had lost consciousness but they refused.

    "We were sitting all the time and they did not allow us to stand up. The only thing that was allowed was to take a child to the toilet from time to time. We practically did not sleep all this time. They took away our mobile telephones, saying that 'if someone's telephone rings, we will kill him.' If they find out that someone's telephone is left, they said, they will shoot 20 people at once," Alina recalls.

    In her words, the hostages were not allowed to stand up and talk, otherwise the militants threatened to kill them. From time to time, they led out a senior-grader, put a sub-machine gun to his head and promised to kill him if this condition is violated, says Alina.

    It was hard to calm children down. The militants hung explosive devices connected by wires along the perimeter of the gym. However, they did this carelessly and their dresses hooked on them every time they passed by. "A blast could have been set off accidentally," said Alina.

    In her words, all wires led to an armchair situated in the center of the gym. The pedal that set was supposed to set off all explosive devices was under the foot of a terrorist who was sitting in that armchair. If an assault begins, the terrorist sitting in the armchair will press the pedal and everything will blow up, explain the militants.

    On the first day, after a part of the explosive devices had already been installed, one of them blew up, killing a man, she said.

    By the noon of September 3, the militants had quarreled and even started shooting at the walls. In Alina's words, the bandits argued in the Chechen language and although the former hostage knows it a little, she could not make it out why they were quarreling.

    Suddenly a blast went off several meters away from her. Although it was strong, no one was killed or injured. After a while, there was another blast - much stronger than the first one.

    Everything was ablaze and smoke was all around the place, she recalls. "My back was burning and I got a burn. The child whom I covered with my body had his leg burned. As a result, the window glass broke into pieces. I snatched the child, dashed ahead, threw him out of the window and pulling myself up, jumped out of the window." Alina says that the windowpane was a little higher than her own height.

    Shooting began, everything was ablaze and she could not see anything because of smoke.

    In her words, making her way to the window, she saw bodies torn apart by the blast. The roof began tumbling down after the first blast and during the second blast there were already no bandits in the gym, except the one sitting in the armchair.

    "We were running through the backyard of the school, while the spetsnaz task force was covering us with return fire. I ran up to a five-story apartment house and rushed into the doorway. There were servicemen there. They led us into an apartment where I immediately ran to the bathroom. I put the child into the bathtub, lay down and turned on the water. We were drinking for about 40 minutes. Then they led us to the fifth floor and through the attic and roof to the neighboring doorway. We went downstairs where we were given assistance, said the woman.

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