September 01, 2004

Hostage Crisis in Ossetia: Hundreds of Schoolchildren Involved

Updates: See this post. The school has been stormed and hundreds dead.

Savages. This hostage crisis represents a clear turn in tactics among Muslim insurgents. The hostage takers appear to be Chechen, but their demands are not related to the Islamic insurgency in the Caucuses. Rather, they claim that this is about the undeclared war between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia. Please see this post for background. What is so frightening about this is that it represents an alliance of convenience between Islamic terrorists and Christian Georgians. Both have a common enemy in Russia, although, I find it hard to believe that any Georgians knew of this attack in advance. However, it is evidence that terrorists will back nation-states, even ones that they consider immoral on theologic grounds, for the sake of common enemies and more immediate goals. NY Times:

Heavily armed insurgents, some with explosives strapped to their bodies, seized a school in southern Russia today and herded scores of schoolchildren and others into its gymnasium.

More than a dozen guerrillas, including men and women, stormed Middle School No. 1 in the town of Beslan in the republic of North Ossetia, not far from Chechnya on Russia's southern border with Georgia, just moments after the opening of the new school year, according to officials there and news reports.

Gunfire erupted during the seizure and afterwards. At least 3 people were reported killed and at least 10 wounded, according to preliminary accounts.

The local police, as well as special forces and soldiers from Russia's 58th Army, surrounded the school, creating a nervous stand-off that continued into this afternoon. Rossiya, the state television network, showed a camouflaged soldier racing a young girl, dressed in a light lavender dress, to safety.

With the school in their hands and evidently trip-wired with explosives, the guerrillas released one hostage with a list of demands, officials told official news agencies. Later the guerrillas freed 15 more hostages and Russian news agencies said 50 children escaped during a lull in the fighting.

A man who answered the telephone at the school and identified himself as "the press secretary" of the fighters said they wanted talks with the leaders of North Ossetia and neighboring Ingushetia, as well as with a pediatrician who took part in negotiations with insurgents who seized a Moscow theater in October 2002.

"Wipe your sniffles," the man said, speaking in Russian with a distinct Chechen accent, when asked what they wanted to discuss with the officials, and then hung up.

Updates Later.

Hat tip: Jeff Quinton. I will be in class all morning, Jeff's site will be a good resource to use for more immediate updates.

Others bloggers: Dean Esmay, Blogs of War, Spoons, Allah (technically a deity, not a blogger), Ace

Stan at Logic and Sanity is live-blogging the crisis.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 08:20 AM | Comments |