MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Friday marks 13 years since the Beslan school siege, in which Islamic extremists captured more than 1,100 people, most of them children, in tsouthern Russian republic of North Ossetia, leading to more than 330 deaths.
The terrorists herded most of the hostages into the school gym and several other locations in the school. At first, they did not put forward any demands, but soon said that they wanted to see then North Ossetian head Alexander Dzasokhov, then Ingush President Murat Zyazikov and the Moscow Emergency Children’s Surgery and Traumatology Research Institute director, Leonid Roshal. According to some reports, they demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Chechen Republic and the release of previously arrested terrorists.
The end came on September 3 when a vehicle with four members of the Emergencies Ministry drove to the school at about noon to collect the bodies of the hostages killed by the terrorists. Two powerful explosions were heard inside the gym followed by shooting. Women and children – almost all of the men were killed by terrorists in the first two days – started jumping from windows and escaping through a hole in the sports hall’s wall.
According to investigators, the explosions were spontaneous and provoked an unplanned assault on the school building by special forces troops. The exchange of fire lasted until late in the evening and the building was partially destroyed.
Casualties included 335 people, of whom 318 were hostages, including 186 children.
A genetic exam was used to identify some of the hostages. The casualties included 10 FSB-led Alpha and Vympel unit troops, two Emergencies Ministry employees and one Beslan resident who took part in the rescue operation. Most of the special forces troops that died did so while trying to protect children with their bodies.
In total, as many as 810 hostages and residents of Beslan, as well as troops from the FSB, the Emergencies Ministry staff, and police and military officers were wounded.
A total of 1,315 people were recognized as affected by the attack in Beslan.
According to the Prosecutor General's Office, the gang that attacked the school included 32 militants, including two female suicide bombers, whose bombs exploded even before the assault. Only one militant – Nurpashi Kulayev – was arrested during the operation. All of the others were killed.
In the honor of the assault's victims, in July 2010, the construction of the School No. 1 Memorial, led by German architects, began in Beslan. According to the project designers, the school, in which hundreds were killed, would be preserved the way it was found after the attack.
In 2012, the construction of the memorial complex around the school gym was completed. An ellipse-shaped structure resembling a funeral wreath was built around the ruined gym of School No. 1 in Beslan. The rest of the school has been preserved to prevent its further decay.
In 2012, the construction of an Orthodox church in the name of New Russian Martyrs and Confessors began in the school courtyard. The project was funded by donations from residents of Ossetia and benefactors from different regions of Russia. On October 3, 2014, Archbishop Zosimus of Vladikavkaz and Alania consecrated its cross.
Monuments to Beslan victims have been built in other Russian cities and abroad, in Vladikavkaz, St. Petersburg, Moscow, the village of Kosta Khetagurov in the Karachaevo–Cherkessian Republic and in Florence, Italy. In March 2015, a central street in Campo San Martino, Veneto, a northern region of Italy, was renamed Street of Beslan Children.