Computer Crime Research Center


26 Hostages Released at Russian School, but Standoff Goes On

Date: September 02, 2004
Source: The New York Time

BESLAN, Russia, Sept. 2 – Heavily armed fighters who seized a school here in southern Russia released more than two dozen hostages, including women with young babies, this afternoon in the first indication that negotiators had made progress in their efforts to end the siege peacefully. Before the hostages were released, the fighters inside rebuffed several offers, including safe passage out of the city.

Senior Russian officials ruled out the immediate use of force to free the hostages, now believed to include more than 350 students, parents and teachers in Middle School No. 1 here in North Ossetia. President Vladimir V. Putin, making his first public statements on the crisis, said Russia's first priority was the safety of those being held inside.

The first hostages – 26 in all, officials said – were released around 4:30 p.m. after nearly a day of intermittent negotiations and occasional eruptions of gunfire and explosions around the school, including the burst of a grenade that landed in an apartment courtyard about 200 yards from the school. No one was injured.

A tense security cordon of Russian soldiers and security officers did not return fire today, under orders not to risk provoking the fighters who have threatened to kill the hostages if any in their ranks are harmed.

Valery Andreyev, the director of the local branch of the Federal Security Service here in North Ossetia, sought to reassure hundreds of anxious relatives gathered not far from the school that the authorities had for now ruled out the use of force to end the hostage siege.

"Do not listen to panicked rumors," Mr. Andreyev told a crowd of those gathered outside around the school on Thursday morning. "No force action is being considered."

The attackers – described as Chechen, Ingush and at least one local fighter – seized the school as the first day of the school year began on Wednesday morning. Officials said today that at least 12 people died in an initial shootout as the heavily armed fighters herded students, parents and teachers into the school's gymnasium.

Facing another unfolding crisis stemming from the war in Chechnya, Mr. . Putin postponed a planned visit to Turkey.

"All the activity of our forces engaged in releasing the hostages will be concentrated on and aimed at resolving this problem exclusively," Mr. Putin said during a meeting in the Kremlin with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who expressed his support for Russia's efforts.
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