Beslan School Siege

The Beslan school siege began when a group of armed terrorists took more than 1100 schoolchildren and adults hostage on 1st September 2004, at a school in the town of Beslan in the Russian Federation.

Inside the school the hostages were crammed into a small gym, not much bigger than a basketball court. Around them the floor was rigged with mines and bombs connected by cables. Bombs were taped to the walls and suspended from the ceiling. Two larger devices were placed in the basketball hoops.

Periodically the attackers fired their guns to terrify the hostages and placed children along the windows to act as human shields. As the hours passed and the temperature soared, many hostages began to faint.

By the second day of the siege, some of the children began dying of dehydration. Others stripped in an effort to stay cool and drank urine. The attackers recorded video footage of the scene in the gym, in which they posed with weapons and explosives, which was later broadcast by television stations worldwide.

On the third day of the siege, the terrorists suddenly began detonating their devices and firing at the hostages, prompting troops led by special forces, to storm the school. As they moved in, half-naked and bloodied children began running out of the school. Others were carried out by adults.

Military and civilian ambulances, as well as civilian cars commandeered by soldiers, were used to take the injured to different hospitals. Several terrorists fled to the school’s basement, where they were killed in a gunfight. Troops killed all but one of a total of 32 terrorists. The one surviving terrorist was found hiding under a truck a short distance from the school.

Emergency workers, sifting through the debris of the burnt out gymnasium later uncovered the remains of hundreds of children and adults. The siege left 331 people dead, including 186 children. More than 700 people were injured. Many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition and some parents had to wait for DNA tests to confirm the fate of their children. The surviving terrorist was sentenced to life imprisonment, despite many of the victims’ families demanding he receive a death sentence.