Four years on, Russia remembers Beslan school tragedy

September 1st, 2008 - 7:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Sep 1 (RIA Novosti) Russia Monday marked the fourth anniversary of the Beslan school tragedy in which 331 people, including 186 schoolchildren, were killed by separatist militants of Chechnya. During the memorial, flowers and floral wreaths were laid and candles lit in memory of the deceased. The proceedings started with the ringing of the school bell to mark the exact time when the school was seized.

Hundreds of people observed a minute’s silence near the school gym where the hostages were kept during the siege. The school has not been repaired and left in ruins as a memorial to the dead.

The mourning ceremony will continue Tuesday and a requiem concert will be given in Beslan in memory of those who died in Russia’s worst terrorist attack.

Russian opposition parties and human rights groups plan to hold three days of rallies in central Moscow and other cities across Russia.

In one of the most shocking and widely publicised events in recent years, a group of Chechnya’s separatist militants seized a school in the town of Beslan, 30 km northwest of Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, Sep 1, 2004.

Sep 1 is known in Russia as the “Day of Knowledge” when schoolchildren all over the country return to their schools.

The militants killed 17 adults - men and women - in the first hours of the siege, and then set up explosive devices around the school, herding the hostages into the gym.

They then demanded that Russian troops pull out of the Chechen republic. The operation was commanded by notorious Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev who was later eliminated.

The siege ended after three days when federal troops stormed the school and hundreds died as militants and troops exchanged fire. All the terrorists, baring one, were killed.

The authorities were widely criticised for their handling of the siege and for the events leading up to it.

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