They took well over a thousand people hostage and almost immediately murdered twenty adult male hostages. The siege lasted for three days, with the hostages forced into the gymnasium which was rigged with explosives. Though the hostages had a little food and water on the first day, they had nothing to drink after that as the temperature soared.
AFTER more than 24 hours in the sweltering heat of the school gymnasium in Beslan, one of the boys trapped inside could not take it any longer.
Summoning up his courage, he approached a hostage taker with a bayonet fixed to his assault rifle and asked him for a drink. It was probably the worst error that he could have made.
“Instead of giving him water, he drove his bayonet through the boy’s body,” said Stanislav Tsarakhov, 10, another captive standing nearby. “I don’t know if he died.”
And then there's this-
Malik Kalchakeyev, 14, speaking slowly and in great detail, told of how the schoolchildren and their parents were herded into the school's gym, how the attackers stopped providing water and how they taunted the exhausted hostages, often forcing them to stand and sit quickly in the hot, crowded gym.
"On the second day, we were all very thirsty. Women told us, the boys, to pee into plastic bottles so that the children could then drink our pee," the boy said, bursting into tears. "I peed into a bottle, and small children -- even babies -- drank it."
There, on the floor, was Aza Tsakhilova, aged 60, using her shoe as a cup to give her granddaughter Lisa sips of urine to quench her thirst, just before the explosions that killed Aza's pregnant daughter, Anna, and Anna's husband, Yuri, and rendered Lisa an orphan. The first day of the siege had been Lisa's first day at school.
Here was eight-year-old Mairbek Varziev, pleading with a terrorist to save his mother, Angela, offering the terrorist a five-rouble coin from his pocket (the equivalent of 10p), the terrorist saying: "I have plenty of money, I don't need yours." Mairbek's mother died there at the siege, while Mairbek was rescued by a soldier and is now receiving daily therapy.
Elsewhere in the sports hall was Larissa Sedakova, soothing her daughter Aida, watching another young girl, no more than 10, approach a terrorist and ask a question — perhaps she wanted a drink or to go to the loo, Larissa couldn't hear — and seeing the terrorist draw back and kick the girl so that she flew through the air across the room. When she closed her eyes afterwards, that was what Larissa saw, the girl in flight.Those few days spent as captives produced worse horrors than that-
Indira Dzetskelova, the mother of one of the child hostages in Beslan, Russia, reports that “several 15-year-old girls were raped by terrorists.” Her daughter “heard their terrible cries and screams when those monsters took them away.”
Other survivors told how screaming teenage girls were dragged into rooms adjoining the gymnasium where they were being held and raped by their Chechen captors who chillingly made a video film of their appalling exploits
As we all know, the siege ended in violence. Over three hundred and thirty people were killed- 186 of them children. And the violence was vicious and gruesome.
While despairing soldiers and rescue workers moved among the growing pile of body bags, it was revealed that an 18-month-old baby had been repeatedly stabbed by a black-clad terrorist who had run out of ammunition.
"There was a sixth-grade girl who had diabetes. She died there. Her mother was screaming."
"One of the gunmen was reading the Koran constantly, and I counted exactly 23 gunmen altogether. The leader was on the roof the whole time with a sniper's rifle. We realised that, because the others went to him for advice.
"The older pupils were forced to carry desks to barricade the windows. When the assault started one of the bandits shouted 'I'll save you'. Everybody ran towards him and then he blew himself up, killing many people."
In addition the gymnasium was rigged with explosives- and the terrorists set off these charges when the assault began.
The Interfax news agency quoted a defense official as saying that "the terrorists planted a lot of mines and booby-traps filled with metal bolts in the gym."
They also began to shoot at the women and children hostages as they tried to flee-
Of those who died from gunshot wounds, most were shot in the back as they fled the gymnasium.
Here's one account-
"They were running," she said tearfully after talking to her family by phone last week. "His father yelled, 'Vova, run, run!' Then, 10 bullets were put in his back. His father held his body and cried, 'Vova, why didn't you run faster!?'"
When the surviving terrorists fled, they were all killed; all but one. That man, found cowering under a truck, is Nurpashi Kulayev. His trial is finally complete and he was found guilty of terrorism, hostage-taking and murder.
"The court has established that Kulayev took part in an armed attack and a hostage-taking..., that he committed murder against defenceless people," said Tamerlan Aguzarov, chief justice of the high court in the province of North Ossetia Tuesday.
Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty. Though there is currently a moratorium on capital punishment, there is some belief that an exception will be made for Kulayev.
Beslan was one of the most terrible, horrific, brutal and simply despicable terrorist acts ever committed. And yet today it seems to be barely remembered; unlike the images of planes slamming into the Twin Towers, those of Beslan, naked children- some of them horribly burned or covered in blood- running and being carried from the school are rarely repeated today. In the immediate aftermath there were pundits claiming that terrorism would have to change after such incredible depravity. And yet nothing has changed. Where are the outcries of horror over the killing, and gloating over it, of the sixteen year old American boy by Palestinian terrorists? And Beslan wasn't a first either. Despite it's savagery it was not entirely a new low for Islamic terrorists- Hamas had already deliberately murdered children on an Israeli bus in 2002-
Nael Azmi Abu Hilail had more than enough time to see those he was about to kill after he boarded the number 20 bus at the bottom of Mexico Street.
The young Palestinian man cannot have failed to notice the two dozen or more children clutching their school books as he squeezed his way to the centre of the packed bus winding through the rush-hour traffic to the centre of Jerusalem yesterday morning.
But that did not discourage him.
Two stops later he detonated the explosive packed around his body, the first suicide bombing in Jerusalem in more than three months and a stunning blow to the peace camp in Israel's general election campaign.
Eight passengers were killed instantly. By the end of the day the death toll had risen to 11. About half were children.And in May 2004, months before Beslan, Islamic terrorists committed an atrocity so depraved that it chills my blood to imagine what twisted and sick people carried it out-
Eight months pregnant Tali Hatuel and her four daughters were murdered. Their car was forced off the road and they were all shot at close range by terrorists belonging to Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committee (both groups claimed responsibility). Tali was 34- her daughter Hila was 11, Hadar was 9, Roni was 7, and Meirav was only 2. Two years old. One of the terrorists even made sure to shoot into Tali's pregnant belly. PA Radio dubbed these murderers as "heroic martyrs".
Since Beslan, more children have been deliberate victims of Islamic terrorism- A Hamas suicide bomber detonated his bomb on a packed bus on August 19th 2003. Twenty three people were killed. Among the dead were three month old and eleven month babies, a three year old, a 9 year old, a12 year old and a 15 year old. The suicide bomber obviously saw these children on board and yet he still went ahead with the attack.
We should never forget Beslan- but we should also bear in mind that Islamic terrorism has, before and since then, deliberately targeted children as part of its campaign of murder and terror. Never forget that.