Skip to comments.Russia: Al-Qaida involved in school attack; at least 340 dead
Posted on 09/04/2004 9:14:36 AM PDT by yonif
BESLAN, Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin called Saturday for a new approach to law enforcement in the wake of the school hostage crisis that killed more than 340 people, and pledged the reform would be in accordance with the nation's constitution.
Putin said international terrorists had declared "a full-scale war" against Russia, and that due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nation was weakened and unable to respond as effectively as it must.
The Russian premier flew to Beslan before dawn on Saturday, as smoke was still rising from the shattered school. Russian authorities, who have tried to prove that the battle with Chechnya is part of the international war on terror, have accused Al-Qaida of involvement in the Beslan attack, Army Radio reported.
"In general, we need to admit that we did not show an understanding of the complexities and dangers of the processes occurring in our own country and in the world," he said in a grim televised address to the nation.
"In any case, we couldn't adequately react ... We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten."
He noted in particular that Russia's borders had become porous and "unprotected from either West or East," and that corruption had pervaded the law enforcement agencies.
Putin called for mobilizing the nation before what he called the "common danger" of terrorism. He said measures would be taken to strengthen Russia's territorial integrity, create a more effective crisis management system, and overhaul the law enforcement organs.
In a visit at dead of night to the hospital in the town of Beslan, the scene of the drama not far from Chechnya, Putin warned separatist sympathizers they would be viewed as "accomplices of terrorism".
The death toll after Friday's bloody climax to the two-day siege included 155 school children, many of them held inside a gym by their captors, and confirmed the episode as the grimmest hostage-taking of modern times.
Officials confirmed for the first time media reports that the separatists had taken more than 1,000 people hostage when they stormed into the school on Wednesday.
A total of 26 militants, 10 of them Arabs according to Russian officials, had staged the hostage seizure, said Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinsky. All had been killed.
"As a result of the terrorist acts, 322 people were killed, 155 of whom were children I think the death toll will rise, but probably not very much," Fridinsky said.
Putin said he had ordered Beslan and the surrounding region of North Ossetia to be sealed off in follow-up operations by security forces.
"One of the tasks pursued by the terrorists was to stoke ethnic hatred, to blow up the whole of our North Caucasus," he told security officials.
"Anyone who feels sympathetic towards such provocations will be viewed as accomplices of terrorists and terrorism."
Many Western countries conveyed their condolences to Putin.
Moscow bridled quickly at a more querulous statement by the European Union's Dutch presidency demanding an explanation for the bloodshed. It said this was out of keeping with solidarity shown by other countries and denounced it as "blasphemous."
Some EU ministers later appeared to back away from the statement.
The large number of dead left barely a family untouched in Beslan. Normally a backwater of the Caucasus with a population of 30,000, the town was a swirl of grief, anger and uncertainty.
Some people vented their anger against Putin, unusual given his popularity. "Putin came here at four this morning," said Boris, whose neighbor and all her family disappeared.
"He saw no one and talked to no one. He just wanted to show the world how young and handsome he is but he hasn't helped and he won't help and he can't stop this happening again."
Ruslan, a young man, was searching for his wife: "I've been searching all day and I can't find her. Where are our people ? No one tells us anything. No one is protecting us."
Most of the dead had been in the school's gym, officials said. They were killed either by explosions that brought down the roof, mined by the hostage-takers, or by the fire and the battles between soldiers and captors that followed.
Putin's harsh tone in his quick visit to Beslan suggested he had no plan to relax his determination to crush mainly Muslim Chechnya's rebellion and keep it within Russia, using tactics long criticized by human rights activists.
The storming of the school by Russian forces, after explosions inside, unleashed pandemonium. Pupils, parents and teachers, many drenched in blood, were carried out on stretchers or in the arms of local men as bullets flew overhead.
The authorities said they had been forced to send in troops when the gunmen opened fire on fleeing children.
Some 25 bodies were laid out in the yard of Middle School No. 1 on Saturday morning, most in body bags, but some, men without shirts, lay uncovered just outside a school window.
Four of the dozen or so mass hostage sieges in the past 30 years have been in Russia. All four have been linked to the war in Chechnya and all ended in huge loss of life.
Explosives and arms used by the gunmen had been smuggled into the school well in advance during summer building work, Interfax quoted an unnamed regional security source as saying.
Freed hostages described Friday's mayhem. "Bombs were strung all over the gym," one teenage girl told state television. "Tape came unstuck on one and it blew up."
North Ossetia is the only predominantly Orthodox province in the otherwise mostly Muslim North Caucasus. But the whole region is a tinderbox of small national groups and any crackdown carries a risk of disrupting further a delicate ethnic balance.
"He noted in particular that Russia's borders had become porous and unprotected.... "
ANYBODY listening ?
Once you saturate a nation with terrorists...you will need a police state to deal with them
the people will give up their liberty willingly to ensure their own safety...
This is just so Russian... Imagine this coming out of any American politician's mouth. It wouldn't even sound right coming out of the mouth of someone on the far right. Russians thought tends to really not like gray areas. There are good things that are pure and perfect and bad things that are unredeamable and miserable. This tradition goes back a long way.
I've been wondering how much of Bush's post-convention bounce might be connected to this horrible event. Every mother and father in America has surely said to themselves, "That could happen here, in my child's school." Even though it happened thousands of miles away, it's almost as if it happened across the street. If I were among the weinie-undecideds, I'd have to think long and hard before I voted for Kerry.
My only child goes to a Middle School. This could have happened to her. This is a threat to all of us. No time for weak-kneed leadership. These terrorists must be destroyed.
My prayers are with the people of Russia and with the families involved in this horrible tragedy.
If they can ID the callers to the Michael Savage Show yesterday, about 1/2 of them advised Russia to get out of Chechnya. If Russia is that weak, China will take Siberia.
A background on the "usual suspects" involved is here http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1207097/posts
Whale...In both cases, terrorism and China, Russia has only one friend, the US.
Russia has two billion people on its borders looking covetously at all that vacant land. They are thinking that Russia has alienated much of that property and it is available through prescriptive rights. What can Russia do about it? Seems like they already did what they are going to do.
I read something about a parent being forced to chose which child she could take out and leave the other. I stopped reading because my heart and mind cannot take that without crying.
The sooner more Americans realize the need to close all mosques in America and deport all muslims the better off we will be. many will flame me for this but all mosques teach the same thing. No muslims are taking a stand against their religion calling for the death of all infidels.
We need to stop illegal immigration, kick out any illegals caught inside our country and severly punish anyone who hires illegals. I would rather see the fourth amendment changed to ban the worship of allah then allow something like this to happen in America and it will happen.
For a mother or father to have to live knowing they picked one child over another is too horrible for me to contemplate. The islam devils did this for that reason. To make them suffer for life. I despise them.
That's all you need to say!
And for that other guy, I'll say it;
"Weak people are beaten"
You see, the thing is, we are not weak people.
It's a trick, we've been "conditioned", for whatever reason, it doesn't matter.
It's just got to stop.
Now, we can wait 'til our school children die or......
I am afraid nothing will be done untill this happens in one of our schools.
I think the islam devil has something more devious planned for America. With our porous borders far too many worshipers of satan have invaded and they will launch a major strike in many places probaly on the same day and same week. They plan on causing chaos inside our country on the magnitude we cannot imagine.
I hate to be such a pessimist but I am sure they will strike and strike hard. Our wonderful politicians will allow this in the name of open borders, globilism, diversity, freedom of religion, and no profiling allowed.
And, without that meteorite to walk around for the Hajj, Islam would lose its soul.
I use the world "soul" here in a very general way.
Golly, are we talking about Russia or the Canadian/Mexican borders with the USA?
Homeland Security, Border Patrol... phooey!
We need guns, bullets and boots on our borders.
ASA HUTCHINSON, ASA HUTCHINSON, TOM RIDGE, TOM RIDGE
KAREN HUGHES, KAREN HUGHES, KAREN HUGHES
Sounds doable, GO PUTIN GO!
Just an important reminder that sKerry has said the "threat of terrorism is exaggerated".
If one of the few Republican 527's were to run a commercial about this terrible event while playing sKerry's comments maybe the uninformed will get a true "wake-up call". They'll see that America's safety cannot be trusted with JFK as Commander-in-chief.
I understand Ramsey Clark, a close friend of John Kerry's, is seeing to it Saddam has a fair trial...his passport should be revoked; Ramsey Clark should not be allowed back into this country!