The Beslan school crisis and the Moscow theatre siege took place with the knowledge and possibly even the assistance of Russian authoritiesby Jeremy Putley / July 22, 2006 / Leave a comment
The 2002 Dubrovka and 2004 Beslan Hostage Crises: A Critique of Russian Counter-Terrorism by John B Dunlop (ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart, €24.90)
John Dunlop’s book covers the September 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis in southern Russia and the October 2002 Dubrovka theatre siege in Moscow, giving objective yet controversial accounts of both tragedies. While the chief responsibility obviously remains that of the terrorists, the book amounts to a severe indictment of the conduct and morality of the Russian authorities.
According to official Russian data, the Beslan crisis resulted in the deaths of 330 people between 1st and 3rd September 2004, including 317 hostages, of whom 186 were children. Dunlop’s research has established the following facts. First, there was credible advance warning of a planned assault on the town of Beslan, but in spite of this, there were no police guarding School No 1 on the first day of the school year save for one unarmed policewoman—the police who should have been there were apparently bribed to stay away. Second, the terrorists had access to the school premises prior to the attack, since they had hidden weapons and explosives there, and constructed a sniper’s lair on the gymnasium roof. Third, the number of the terrorists is unknown, but was certainly more than those killed—a considerable number escaped after the storming of the school; it is only too probable that the leader of the assault, Ruslan Khuchbarov, alias “the colonel,” was one of those who got away and is still at large. There is also evidence that implicates officials in assisting the seizure of the school. Many of the terrorists had been in prison until just before the raid, and were released purposely so that they could take part.
The siege ended only after the armed forces, following orders and in accordance with a deliberate plan, stormed the building; the use of flamethrowers and tanks in the assault, carried out while the hostages were still present in the gymnasium, resulted in the collapse of the roof on to the hostages below, killing 160 of them and producing more than half of the hostage fatalities.
In planning the federal response, the government had priorities that had little to do with saving the hostages. It seems that the decision to storm the building was taken at the top: presumably by President Putin himself. Aslan Maskhadov, who as the elected Chechen president was leading a guerrilla…