On September 1, 2004, a hostage-taking took place at School No. 1 in Beslan, the Republic of North Ossetia. As a result of the capture and subsequent storming of the building, 333 people died, mostly children. Another 783 people were injured.
Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack by relaying the message through the Kavkaz Center website. The group of terrorists was led by Ruslan Khuchbarov, a native of Ingushetia.
The terrorists took hostages with the aim of recognizing the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria by the Russian government.
September 1. Hostage taking at school
On the morning of September 1, 2004, a GAZ-66 car moved out of the forest near the Ingush village of Psedakh. There were 30 militants and two female suicide bombers in the truck. They were heading to the Ossetian city of Beslan, located 40 km from the terrorist base.
The terrorists were well prepared. Their arsenal, in addition to explosive devices, first-aid kits and provisions, included:
- 22 Kalashnikov assault rifles of various modifications
- 2 RPK-74 machine guns
- 2 PKM machine guns
- 1 PKT machine gun
- 2 RPG grenade launchers
- 1 grenade launcher ‘Bumblebee’
As well as Makarov pistols, revolvers of the Nagant system, hunting rifles, hand grenades and communications equipment.
Passing through the village of Khurikau, the terrorists captured a local policeman, Major Gurazhev, who was trying to stop the truck. Some of the militants got into Gurazhev’s car. The militants went through fields and country roads to the federal highway “Kavkaz” and arrived in Beslan.
Terrorist Shamil Basayev said in one of his interviews: “If I need to, I will blow up [a truck] ‘Kamaz’ with TNT near the [building] of the [Russian] State Duma.” There are some doubts in the testimony of Gurazhaev, who could or wanted to let a truck with militants through for a bribe, but something went wrong.
At this time, a solemn assembly began in the courtyard of school No. 1. The children went out of the classroom into the yard.
The terrorists surrounded the school building around the perimeter, some of them entered the school building, children, teachers and parents who came to the school assembly were captured and gathered in the school gym.
People were driven to the gym, forced to climb into the school through broken windows. Ruslan Fraev was killed right at the main entrance to the school – he became the first victim of terrorists.
Children and parents were frightened, there was noise in the hall. The terrorists forced everyone present to speak Russian.
Most Chechen fighters know Chechen and Russian, but do not speak Ossetian.
Ruslan Betrozov, who came to the lineup with his two sons, tried to calm people down in Ossetian. The militants let him finish, then put him on his knees and shot him right in the gym. Both of his sons also died on September 3rd. Betrozov’s body was dragged by the legs through the entire gym, so that everyone could understand that the militants were not joking. The militants then drove a truck to the main entrance, unloaded explosives and ammunition and brought it into the school.
At the same time, the police arrived at the school building. In a short skirmish, one of the terrorists was killed. His corpse lay on the threshold of the school all three days. He turned black to such an extent that during the assault he was mistaken for a Negro. Later it became the source of the myth that there was a Negro in the multinational gang.
In the same skirmish, two more terrorists were wounded. One was seriously wounded in the stomach, and the terrorist Vladimir Khodov was slightly wounded in the arm.
The mining of the hall began. The terrorists deployed a pre-prepared electro-explosive circuit, connected improvised explosive devices to it. Explosive devices were fragmentation, designed for a large damaging effect.
Explosive devices were located on chairs, hung in the form of garlands on the walls and over heads, between basketball hoops, several explosive devices were placed in the basketball baskets of the gym.
Electroexplosive circuits were duplicated, controlled by two pedals inside the hall and a remote control outside the hall. The chains could be blown up both simultaneously and in separate sections of 5-6 IEDs each.
Men and high school students were separated from the crowd and forced to break glass in classrooms and build barricades in windows and doors. The militants took all the phones and photo-video equipment from the hostages. Under fear of being shot, the pectoral crosses were taken away.
One of the cameras began to film what was happening at the school.
The history of this record is interesting. For the first time, this recording surfaced on the NTV channel on September 7th and got into the case file from there. Also at the disposal of CBS journalists was a video recording of negotiations with the terrorists of the then President of the Republic of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev. This video was also featured in the materials of the criminal case. How this happened, who gave the video to journalists and how this video was obtained is unknown.
At this time, Ruslan Gappoev tried to break through to the school. His wife and daughter were at the school. An automatic burst prevented him from running. The militants closely watched what was happening within sight. It was impossible to take away his body – he lay in the grass before the assault. His daughter also died on September 3rd. The wife was wounded, but survived.
At 11:05 a.m., the terrorists, through the hostage Larisa Mamitova, pass a note with the following content:
We demand for negotiations the President of the Republic of [North Ossetia] Dzasokhov, President Zyazikov. Ingushetia Rashailo children. doctor. If any of us is killed, we will shoot 50 people, if any of us is wounded, we will kill 20 people, If 5 of us are killed, we will blow everything up. If you turn off the light, contact for a minute, we will shoot 10 people.
The note was written under dictation by Larisa Mamitova and is replete with grammatical errors. Including Mamitova wrote the name ‘Reshalo’, signing from herself ‘children’s doctor’. The terrorists had in mind Vladimir Rushailo, the then chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. As a result of this mistake, Vladimir Roshal, a pediatrician, director of the Moscow Research Institute of Emergency Pediatric Surgery and Traumatology, came to negotiate with the terrorists, which the terrorists were terribly surprised at. Subsequently, the Russian media presented Vladimir Roshal’s trip to negotiate with the terrorists as an act of his goodwill.
The phone indicated in the note turned out to be blocked and it was not possible to establish a connection on it – the terrorists indicated the number incorrectly.
During the capture, some of the children and parents hid in the school boiler room, which was located next to the gym. After some time, some of them managed to get out and run away, the rest were discovered by the terrorists and taken to the gym. Boiler house operator Ivan Karlov (born 1932) managed to save about 15 people, but soon he himself was taken hostage.
The terrorists conducted aimed fire at everything that moves beyond the perimeter. At 3 p.m., they set fire to an apartment on the third floor of the 39th house in Shkolny Lane, next to the school, with a grenade launcher.
Probably the militants thought that something suspicious was going on in the apartment. Perhaps there was a sniper.
Among the militants were two female suicide bombers. At about 4 p.m., one of them exploded in the corridor of the school. The reasons for the explosion are not known for certain, it was probably blown up by the ringleader Ruslan Khuchbarov when she refused to obey.
The explosion killed two male hostages, including the boiler-house driver Ivan Karlov, mortally wounded another militant, who died on the same day, and wounded several people.
Only the head and legs remained of the suicide bomber, the rest was sprayed on the walls. The terrorists explained to the hostages in the hall: “It was your tankers who fired at the suicide bomber.”
The reason for the refusal to obey the shahid woman is quite probable, because young children were taken hostage.
By this time, the Operational Headquarters began to work in Beslan, the military from the 58th brigade and special forces arrived.
Having finished mining and building barricades, the terrorists took 19 men to the second floor of the school and shot them in the literature classroom.
Two hostages managed to survive. Aslan Kudzaev was forced to throw the bodies of those who had been shot out of the window. He noticed that the militant unfastened the horn of the machine gun for reloading. Without delay, Aslan jumped out the window. Sprained his leg in the fall. Someone from the military, seeing him jump, threw a smoke bomb at the school and he managed to escape under the cover of smoke.
Another hostage, Yuri Aylarov, pretended to be dead and was also able to jump out the window, right on the corpses. He stood until dark under the wall of the school, and then he was able to get out.
At about 4:30 p.m., the militants, who did not wait for a connection, transmitted another note through the same Mamitov, in which a different phone number was indicated. Contacts have begun. The militants did not put forward any demands, except for those that were previously voiced in the first note, and played for time. The terrorists added one more name to the list of negotiators – Aslanbek Aslakhanov, Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation for the North Caucasus. Any proposals of the Operational Headquarters were rejected.
The city began compiling lists of those who could be among the hostages. The lists were compiled right on the streets, then rechecked, since many were recorded several times, and the women also had their maiden names.
In total, there were about three thousand names on the lists, which indicated their unreliability – according to the testimony of those who managed to escape during the capture, there could be up to 500 people on the line at the school. In reality, twice as many people were taken hostage. Most likely, those who called the number 500 did not see all the hostages at the same time, because many were not in the yard, but in the school itself.
2 September. Beslan. Press. Negotiation
On September 2, at 7 am, Lev Dzugaev, head of the analytical center under the President of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, spoke to reporters:
Contacts continued with relatives and friends of those who were held hostage. I want to emphasize once again that they demonstrate endurance, which is extremely important in a situation like this. As a result of the work that was carried out, the lists of those who could be held hostage were specified. At this hour, there are 354 people on these lists. The necessary amount of drinking water and food was collected. But unfortunately, there is no way to transfer them to where the hostages are. All services necessary in such cases are deployed on site. They are on permanent duty.
This speech ultimately influenced the whole course of further events. Dzugaev’s phrase was repeated by hundreds of Russian and foreign media, and as a result, the effect of the ‘Chinese telephone’ worked, when hundreds of journalists, each in their own way, wrote about 354 hostages, of which there were more than 1,000 people.
Whether Dzugaev intentionally downplayed the number of hostages, whether there was some kind of directive from Moscow about this, or only Dzugaev himself and those who compiled the lists of hostages know this coincidence of circumstances.
As a result, the situation began to escalate. Relatives of the hostages began to resent, the indignation turned into a protest action.
It is necessary to understand the mentality of the inhabitants of the North Caucasus. If relatives have problems, then all relatives help to solve this problem. No wonder that soon several hundred people came out to protest.
The terrorists also found out about the alleged 354 hostages and began to tell people that no one needed them and that the authorities were ready to sacrifice them. At the same time, they announced to people that from this hour the hostages were declaring a voluntary dry hunger strike – they themselves were refusing food and water in support of the demands of the militants.
This was part of a plan, not a spontaneous decision, as Basayev himself stated two weeks after the events in Beslan.
The hall was terribly hot, stuffy and stench. People were not allowed to go to the toilet, they were not allowed to drink. “If you’re thirsty, drink urine,” they told the hostages. Some of the hostages did just that – they drank their own urine.
At this time, the militants were firing from machine guns and grenade launchers at all objects around the school that aroused their suspicions.
A shot from a grenade launcher set fire to a parked car, and several more shots from a grenade launcher hit the building of a nearby boarding school for children.
At this time, 3 T-72 tanks drive up to the school where the hostages are being held and control Komintern Street where the school is located from two sides.
In the course of negotiations with the terrorists, an agreement was reached that the President of the Republic of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, would come to the talks.
Ruslan Aushev urgently flew to Beslan and at about 4 p.m. moved to the school along the route agreed with the militants in advance. His movement was perfectly visible from the 2nd floor of the school.
The militants took Aushev to the second floor to the teachers’ room and handed over a note with demands on behalf of Shamil Basayev:
From the servant of Allah Shamil Basayev to the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin
Vladimir Putin, you didn’t start this war. But you can finish it if you have the courage and determination of De Gaulle.
We offer you a reasonable peace on a mutually beneficial basis on the principle: “Independence in exchange for security.”
In the event of the withdrawal of troops and the recognition of the independence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, we undertake:
– not to enter into any political, military and economic alliances with anyone against Russia,
– not to deploy foreign military bases on our territory, even on a temporary basis,
– not to support and not to finance groups or organizations conducting armed methods of struggle against the Russian Federation,
– to be in a single ruble zone,
– to become part of the CIS.
In addition, we can sign the CSTO, although the status of a neutral state is more acceptable to us. We can also guarantee that all Muslims in Russia will give up armed methods of fighting against the Russian Federation for at least 10-15 years, subject to the observance of freedom of religion (which, [inaudible] is enshrined in the Constitution of the Russian Federation).
We have nothing to do with the explosions of houses in Moscow and Volgodonsk, but we can take it upon ourselves in an acceptable form.
The Chechen people are waging a national liberation struggle for their Freedom and Independence, for their self-preservation, and not in order to destroy Russia or humiliate her. Being free, we will be interested in a strong neighbor. We offer you the world, and the choice is yours.
Aushev was taken around the school, showed a full gym of children, showed the corpses of murdered men thrown out of the window.
The terrorists called the director of the school, Lidia Tsaliyeva, who confirmed that the hostages had gone on a dry hunger strike.
Aushev asked the terrorists to release the infants, to which Khuchbarov agreed. Infants did not understand the threats, they constantly screamed and interfered with the militants. Aushev took 25 people out of the school, mothers with young children. It was also a good gesture so that the terrorists could show their ‘good will’.
Meanwhile, the situation in Beslan was becoming more tense. Armed men from the local militia walked around the city and relatives who came to their aid threatened to start shooting at the soldiers if the school building was stormed.
There were journalists, crying women and soldiers everywhere.
The terrorists named Aslan Maskhadov as a proxy for negotiations.
Dzasokhov, Gutseriev, Aushev begin to call Maskhadov’s press secretary Zakaev, who was in London at that moment, and demand Aslan Maskhadov’s immediate participation in the negotiations.
Zakayev, referring to a one-way connection with Maskhadov, says that he will pass on the demand, and at that time he sends out press releases to the European media in which he claims that the hostage-taking has nothing to do with Maskhadov, but he is ready to assist in the negotiations, and Zakaev himself ready to fly to Beslan.
Meanwhile, the released hostages are giving interviews to Russian media in which they say that not 354 people are being held hostage, as Dzugaev previously claimed, but more than 1,000.
However, the media published this material only the next day, September 3.
In the evening Leonid Roshal spoke to his relatives in the Palace of Culture. He tried to reassure people, spoke about the reserves of the body and that there is no threat to the lives of children from hunger and dehydration at the moment.
September 3rd. Beslan. Storm
Early in the morning of September 3, 2 out of 10 combat groups of the Central Security Service of the FSB on 5 armored personnel carriers advanced to the 58th Army training ground to practice combat coordination for storming the school building.
The hostages are already in a semi-conscious state, many wander around like zombies, do not listen to orders and are not afraid of shooting at the ceiling. According to the stories of the survivors, many have already humbled themselves and prayed that the mines would finally explode and the torment would end. On the third day, the militants themselves became completely brutalized.
The militants were waiting for some action either from the authorities or from Maskhadov or another group of terrorists.
It is authentically known about the reserve group, which was supposed to capture the school in the village of Nesterovskaya. Part of this group was captured and neutralized in March 2005, a few months after the events in Beslan.
At this time, the militants decided to transfer some of the hostages, who began to lose consciousness, to a room next to the gym – a gym. There were broken windows and there was an influx of fresh air.
The militants mined the gym and, in order to distribute the explosives evenly, they began to rearrange the mines in the gym closer to the walls, and the hostages were gathered in the center of the gym.
This will ultimately save many hostages’ lives.
Meanwhile, the FSB fighters occupied advantageous positions around the school building, but some of them were discovered by the militants and fired on them.
Photo by Dmitry Belyakov.
Explosions and assault
On September 2, Ruslan Aushev agreed with the terrorists to hand over the bodies of the murdered men. On the afternoon of the 3rd, the terrorists put forward a strict condition: the bodies of the killed men should be taken out on an open flatbed truck by 4 people, one of whom should drive, and three in the back.
For this, a group of volunteer rescuers from the EMERCOM squad was formed.
At about 1 pm, a truck pulled up to the school. The terrorists forced the rescuers to come out, put them on their knees and searched them.
They demanded that two rescuers load the corpses and two sit by the school fence with their hands up.
The terrorists first forced the rescuers to bring the corpse of one of the killed militants to the entrance to the school.
It was difficult for two rescuers to lift the corpses onto the high side of the truck, and two other rescuers asked the militants to let them help their comrades. They agreed, but first one of the terrorists demanded that one of the rescuers examine the corpse of Ruslan Faraev (see photo above) and check if there were any keys from the car parked nearby on the corpse.
The lifeguard saw the keys, but said there were no keys. At this time, someone from the school building called the terrorist. He ran to the porch at the entrance to the school and the first explosion was heard.
What exactly happened is impossible to say. According to experts, an explosive device installed on a chair at the entrance to the gym worked.
Almost all the hostages who were in the immediate vicinity died, many were seriously injured and shell-shocked.
After 23 seconds, a second powerful explosion thundered. This was detonated at once by several explosive devices on the walls of the gym. At the same time (MON) exploded under the window, two two-liter bottles with a kilogram of plastic and steel balls from bearings, at least one OZM-72 and 1-2 smaller IEDs installed near the doors.
The consequences of this explosion were monstrous. The explosion tore off the roof of the building, the windows were knocked out, window openings were partially destroyed, a hole was formed in the wall. At least 150 people, mostly children, died on the spot. The rest were wounded and stunned by the explosion.
The terrorists opened fire on the rescuers who came to pick up the corpses, two of whom were killed and two wounded, but survived.
The hostages started jumping through the windows and running out through the main entrance to the school. The terrorists opened fire on them with machine guns. Taking advantage of the turmoil, one of the terrorists, Nur-Pashi Kulayev, tried to escape by mingling with a group of fleeing hostages, but was detained by the FSB special forces.
The militants tried to drive the surviving hostages into the assembly hall and dining room. Those who could not move were finished off by the terrorists.
A shootout began. Policemen and militias, without any command, opened fire on the terrorists trying to cover the fleeing hostages. Later they were joined by snipers and special forces.
Around this time, one of the special forces soldiers fired a grenade launcher at the school. Whether this was the reason for the fire in the gym or not is not completely clear, but the corpses of the hostages were badly burned. Some journalists believe that the second explosion was provoked by a grenade launcher.
At 13:10, the order was given to conduct an operation to rescue the hostages. The command of the operation was entrusted to General Tikhonov, head of the TsSN FSB. The snipers begin to suppress the firing points of the terrorists, giving people the opportunity to get out. People run in different directions.
A mobile first-aid post is set up in the yard of the vocational school next to the School No. 1. There are not enough ambulances.
The FSB special forces were in a difficult position. It was not clear what was happening. The police and militia fired indiscriminately at the school building. Assault actions were impossible, it was not clear who was shooting at whom, where the terrorists were, and where the militia.
By this time, at about 2 p.m., the terrorists deliberately smashed a mobile phone that was used to communicate with the negotiation group, and after the explosion, a fire broke out in the school building.
Firefighters could not work productively because an intense firefight was going on at that time. The fire was extinguished by local residents and the militia.
The terrorists gathered the surviving hostages in the school cafeteria. By this time, the fighters from the cordon, covering the hostages, broke the bars in the gym and began to take people out of there.
A group of sappers entered the gym and defused explosive devices.
It should be noted that all these actions were carried out under heavy fire from terrorists.
From 14.30 to 15.00, a group of FSB special forces urgently returned to Beslan, which had left for the training ground to practice combat coordination and storm the school building.
At 15.00 the order was given to storm the school building.
The assault on the school building in Beslan was carried out by three groups from three directions.
The first group of special forces was supposed to penetrate the wing of the workshops of the school. But the windows of the wing were barricaded and mined, and the fighters did not immediately enter the building.
The second group entered the library window, because the main entrance leads to a corridor that can be shot through, and from the hall next to the library there is a staircase to the second floor.
The third group, under the cover of an armored personnel carrier, broke through to the corner emergency exit between the main school building and the gym.
Together with the third group, local men break through to the school, both armed and unarmed. They begin to pull the hostages out of the burning gym.
Together with them, several photographers and cameramen were able to approach the school.
The wounded and the dead are taken out to the street, where they are quickly sorted into the living and the dead. The living are taken to the hospital, the dead are piled on the lawn, right on the street. These moments are on the frames of the chronicle.
At 3:25 p.m., firefighters were finally able to put out the fire in the gymnasium. A few minutes later the main building of the school was cleared of militants. The surviving terrorists, the survivors, withdrew to the dining room and the outbuilding of the workshops. A fire truck drives into the yard, people are actively involved in extinguishing a fire in the gym.
Meanwhile, a real fight is going on in the dining room. The terrorists place hostages at the windows and, under their cover, fire from machine guns, machine guns, and grenade launchers.
At 16.00, an armored personnel carrier approaches the dining room window, the soldiers hook the grate with a cable, pull it out, and special forces burst into the dining room and immediately stumble upon machine-gun fire. The special forces are suffering significant losses, the militants are throwing grenades. Having pushed the terrorists out of the dining room, the last phase of the hostage evacuation begins.
By 5 p.m., all the hostages had been evacuated from the canteen. At this time, the special forces are actively fighting in the school building. An hour later, under active fire, the militants managed to withdraw all the people remaining in the school.
During the assault, the special forces lost 10 people killed, at least 50 fighters were injured. These are the largest losses in the history of the FSB.
After it became clear that the positions of the militants in the school were mined, it was decided to start shelling the school from a tank.
At 21.00, the tank with tail number 325 fires 7 shots at the dining room and the classroom adjacent to it.
After firing from the tank, the militants show no activity, and a detachment of the Ministry of Emergency Situations enters the gym. However, after unexploded mines were discovered in the gym, it was decided to postpone further work until the morning.
Around 24:00, activity was noticed in the outbuilding of the workshops. A shot is fired from the RPO-A from the gymnasium into the wing. A fire starts in the wing, the second floor of the wing collapses. The fire will continue until the morning.
4 September. Beslan. Time to collect stones
On the night of September 4, Putin arrived in Beslan. He visited the hospital and held a meeting with the operational headquarters.
Early in the morning, the Ministry of Emergency Situations began clearing the rubble and removing the bodies of the dead. The prosecutor’s office and the FSB began to carry out investigative actions and identification of corpses.
Beslan. Results and consequences
All the terrorists, with the exception of Nur-Pashi Kulayev, were killed. As a result of this attack, 333 hostages died, of which 186 were children.
Aslan Maskhadov, the then president of Chechnya, made a number of statements about his non-involvement in the attack and made Shamil Basayev swear on the Koran that he would no longer carry out hostage-taking.
The events in Beslan allowed Putin to cancel the elections of the heads of the subjects of the Federation, and in the course of the political reform announced on September 13, the presidents of the subjects of the Russian Federation began to be appointed in Moscow.
Aslan Maskhadov was killed on March 8, 2005 during a special operation.
Shamil Basayev, who claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Beslan, was declared terrorist No. 1 in Russia. A reward of 300,000,000 rubles ($10,700,000) was announced for his head.
Shamil Basayev was liquidated on the night of July 9-10 in Ingushetia during a special operation of the FSB of the Russian Federation, his truck took off into the air and the remains were identified after a DNA examination.
Leonid Roshal was criticized many times both for his speech in the Beslan Palace of Culture and for his other statements, but he remained afloat and held various positions in various medical organizations for many years. Supports Putin.
Vladimir Putin ran for a third term in the 2018 presidential election in defiance of the Russian Constitution.
- Beslan. Children in the gym. Shooting terrorists. Video
- Beslan. Bodies of terrorists on identification
- Beslan. Chronicle frames
- Beslan. The corpses of children
One non-principal question
Yet the official version of events is somewhat different from journalistic investigations.
The discrepancy is only in one point: whether the special forces soldier fired from the PKK flamethrower at the gym where the hostages were located or whether he fired at the roof of the school building?
This does not change the overall background of events. The Russian government was not going to negotiate with the terrorists.
Draw your own conclusions.