As stated in the previous installment, while you read please keep in mind–meditate upon–the three fundamental building blocks of this account: The *wickedness* of the terrorists, the *innocence* of the hostages, the *heroism* of the assaulters.
This entire scenario is composed of the basic elements of every epic you’ve ever heard or read, especially the horror.
The aftermath of the Beslan Massacre is a mixture of infinite sorrow, vast anger, knit picking, finger-pointing, blame-passing, and denial. But before we get into all that, let’s calculate the dead, the dying, and injured.
Official total fatalities number 385+.*
- Hostages 334 (186 children)
- Russian Alpha and Vympel troopers 10+
- Hostage-takers 31
- Others (medical workers; collateral casualties)
* That + in the total denotes even more of that aforementioned horror. Three days after the siege had ended, Russian officials revised the original death toll (396) to 334, including 186 children. The + represents the ~200 people who remained missing or unidentified. (The day after the siege, the rubble and debris–including bodies and body parts–were moved to a dump site.)
The 10+ count for the Spetsnaz assaulters is based on the variation of KIA reported. The “official” accounts range from 10 to more than 20. There are 10 names on the Spetsnaz Memorial in Beslan. The fatalities include all three assault group commanders: Lieutenant Colonel Ilin, Lieutenant Colonel Razumovskii, and Major Perov. (The complete list of fallen assaulters follows this article. May their memory shine as an example in the darkness; to the darkness.)
Official total injuries number 783
- Assault and security forces 55 (30 of which were critical)
- Hostages and others 728
The town of Beslan was vastly unprepared to cope with such casualties. Inadequate facilities, supplies, and equipment contributed greatly to the extension of chaos into the aftermath, even with the makeshift and field hospitals. Once triage occurred, victims were isolated. Relatives were not allowed to visit treatment centers. Medical staff were forbidden to use their mobile phones. Patients were eventually sent to facilities in Vladikavkaz (the capitol, remember) as necessary.
The identity and motives of the terrorists were initially unclear. The immediate assumption was that the attackers were separatists from neighboring Chechnya, an assumption that was more or less confirmed when the terrorists’ demands were made. Although, Putin’s presidential Chechen aide, Aslambek Aslakhanov, has denied this assumption. Aslakhanov has continued to state, “…they were not Chechens. When I started talking with them in Chechen, they had answered: ‘We do not understand, speak Russian.'” Debriefed survivors also confirmed that the hostage-takers spoke Caucasian-accented Russian.
On 17 September 2004, the Chechen Shamil Basayev issued a claim of responsibility for the siege. The siege itself was operationally similar to the 1995 Chechen raid on Budyonnovsk, as well as the Moscow theatre crisis in 2002. In both incidents, hundreds of Russian civilians were held hostage by Chechen rebels, also led by Basayev. Basayev further claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in Russia prior to the Beslan siege.
The Russian government eventually accused the following as planners or financiers:
- Shamil Basayev – the aforementioned Chechen rebel; accused/self-proclaimed leader.
- Kamel Rabat Bouralha – a British-Algerian; accused organizer.
- Abu Zaid Al-Kuwaiti – a Kuwaiti; accused organizer.
- Abu Omar al-Saif – a Saudi; accused financier.
In terms of motives, aside from the note tossed from the window the terrorists had handwritten notes in a school notebook. These notes spelled out demands of full Russian troop withdrawal from Chechnya and recognition of Chechen independence. These demands are consistent with Basayev’s stated objectives, as well.
Despite negotiators specifically stating that no explicit demands were ever made by the terrorists, official reports state the following demands were made:
- Recognition of Chechen independence by the UN
- Complete withdrawal of Russian troops
- The immediate presence of Aleksander Dzasokhov (president of North Ossetia), Murat Zyazikov (president of Ingushetia), Ruslan Aushev (former president of Ingushetia), and Leonid Roshal (the pediatrician) as negotiators
According to official reports, there were 32 terrorists directly involved in the attack. Of those, as stated, 31 were killed. One was taken alive (trying to sneak out as a survivor, remember). The exact number of terrorists remains a shaky issue. As with their identities. This is due to contradictory records, and significant differences between official documents and government statements.
Statements made on 3–4 September claimed a total of 27 terrorists were killed during the siege. Also stated is that at least four–including the two women with the suicide bomb belts–died prior to the Russian assault. Survivors and witnesses claim there were more captors. Multiple witnesses claim that some captors escaped prior to the assault. The initial official claim was that three terrorists were captured, including the suspected tactical commander, Vladimir Khodov, and another female.
(These numbers do not reflect the evidence that the school was prepped for the siege prior the initial attack. No real information is available regarding any investigation into that probability.)
Three separate official reports state the following:
- The 2005 Kesayev Report estimated that 50 terrorists took part in the siege–based on witness debriefs and the number of weapons recovered on-site.
- The 2006 Savelyev Report stated from 58 to 76 terrorists were involved, the low number of EKIA illustrated that the rest had escaped.
- The 2006 Torshin Report showed that 34 militants were involved; 31 were killed, one was captured, and two escaped–including Yunus Matsiyev, one of Basayev’s bodyguards.
On 6 September 2004–after extensive site exploitation/investigation, forensic interviews with survivoring hostages, and what I can only imagine was a fucking terrifying interrogation of the single captured shitbird–seven terrorist names were released. Autopsies of the available terrorist bodies also established that 21 of the terrorists had typically lethal levels of heroin, Methamphetamine, and morphine in their systems.
Positive identification eventually established that most of the terrorists were ethnic Ingush, or Chechen residents of Ingushetia. The majority were male. The majority were between 20-35 years old.
Critics, including survivors, their families, and Beslan residents, have concentrated allegations on the impromptu and “overly ruthless” assault. These critics cite the use of heavy weapons, armor–T-72 TANKS!–and flamethrowers (usage of which has all been officially confirmed) as being atypical of surgical tactical operations. (No shit, but I ain’t judgin’.) The standard argument against the tactical response is that it was not a hostage rescue, but a strike operation aimed at wiping out the terrorists.
Further criticism revolves around Russian media coverage…or lack thereof. The crisis was not broadcast by any of the three major [state-owned] Russian networks. Nor was the crisis explicitly covered in print or radio.
Nur-Pashi Kulayev (the guy that got captured), a Chechen, claimed that the attack was deliberately designed to cause maximum outrage. He stated further that targeting a school, with mothers and young children, was the best way to achieve that end. But the wider purpose was to ignite a war in the Caucasus; they had hoped that the majority Orthodox Ossetians would respond violently against the mostly Muslim Ingush and Chechen. This, in turn, would foment further ethnic and religious unrest throughout the North Caucasus.
This concludes SOFREP’s account of the Beslan School Massacre of 2004. Kind of an abrupt stop, I know. But the report is the report. If these Cliff’s Notes weren’t detailed enough for you, and you’d like a *far* more comprehensive picture, I recommend you check out John Giduck’s Terror At Beslan, a Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America’s Schools. It’s a history book, so be prepared. (And this author’s opinion is that it gets a little preachy and hellfire-and-brimstoney regarding impending Beslan-like attacks in the U.S., but outside of all that is a fucking brutal account.) It’s also fully endorsed by LTC Dave Grossman (On Killing, On Combat), for what that’s worth.
As promised, here are the names of the Alpha and Vympel CT troops who did not return from their 03SEP04 assault, and are listed on the memorial in Beslan. R.I.P.
- Warrant Officer Oleg Vyacheslavovich Loskov
- WO Denis Yevgeniyevich Pudovkin
- Lieutenant Andrei Alekseyevich Turkin
- Major Roman Yurievich Katasonov
- MAJ Mikhail Borisovich Kuznetov
- MAJ Vyacheslav Vladimirovich Molyarov
- MAJ Aleksandr Valentinovich Perov
- MAJ Andrei Vitaliyevich Velko
- Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Gennadiyevich Ilin
- LTC Dmitri Aleksandrovich Razumovskii
Featured Image courtesy of www.boston.com