Memorial service honours Beslan siege victims

A memorial service is being held in Beslan, the town in Russia’s Republic of North Osetia, to mark 1000 days since the tragic school siege in September 2004. More than 330 hostages were killed in the terrorist attack, 186 of them were children. 

Relatives are gathering overnight at a Beslan cemetery. They are lighting candles and laying flowers for the victims.

Earlier, a court hearing connected with the siege was disrupted. Victims' relatives protested against the court's decision on the policemen accused of negligence that led to the tragedy. 

The women whose children and relatives perished in the terror attack were disappointed not to see the defendants in the courtroom despite their demands to bring the policemen.

The judge was to announce his resolution on the amnesty demand from the defence. The women did not let him speak protesting the decision with shouts. The wives and mothers of those killed in the terrorist attack couldn't believe the policemen were cleared without even testifying. When the judge left the courtroom they started crashing furniture and breaking windows.

“Forget it – that was his verdict. Forget it as if it never happened. As if there were no 331 killed now sorrow,” Ella Kisaeva from Voice of Beslan group exclaimed.

On September 1, 2004, a group of terrorists took more than 1000 people hostage in a school in Beslan in Southern Russia. After a three-day siege, Russian Special Forces led an assault on the building. 32 terrorist were killed in the firefight along with more than 300 hostages. The only terrorist captured alive – Nurpasha Kulaev – is currently serving a life sentence.

The mothers of the children who died in the siege don't just blame the terrorists. They are saying the Russian authorities must share some of the responsibility. They cite the refusal to negotiate, and what they feel was a bungled rescue attempt as decisions that need explaining.

The three policemen who have been cleared are the only officials to have faced criminal charges in connection with the Beslan tragedy.

The families’ version of events is based on survivors' and witnesses' testimonies. They are critical of the authorities. In turn, they have no mercy for those who had no mercy for the hostages.

Some say these people are just looking for someone to blame, others see the Mothers of Beslan and other local pressure groups as the only force fighting to uncover the truth of what happened during the three day September siege.