Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Armed Group Seizes Russian School, Talks Start
Sep 1, 3:26 PM (ET) By Oleg Shchedrov
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A heavily armed gang seized up to 400 hostages at a Russian school near Chechnya Wednesday and threatened to shoot dead 50 children for any one of their comrades killed, a senior local official said.
Itar-Tass news agency said negotiations had begun with the gang of up to 17 men and women who stormed into the secondary school in North Ossetia province during a morning ceremony marking the first day of the new school year.
The assault in the town of Beslan bore the signs of a Chechen rebel operation and was the latest in a recent spate of deadly attacks in Russia which have killed more than 100. But Chechen separatists said they had nothing to do with it.
President Vladimir Putin, facing a major challenge to his security policies, broke off his seaside holiday and rushed to Moscow. But he made no public statements.