The third year of the US' global "war on terror" saw a number of high-profile terrorist acts in a wide range of countries. The most prominent were the occupation of a school in southern Russia by Chechen terrorists and the bombing of two train stations in Madrid, Spain.
The Russian school crisis began with an undetermined number of heavily armed assailants storming a high school in Beslan, North Ossetia, taking hundreds of schoolchildren and their parents hostage.
The assailants rigged the school with explosives and began a tense standoff with Russian police and special forces. The standoff ended when a large group of hostages tried to run to safety, causing the authorities to storm the building when the Chechen assailants began firing at the fleeing children and adults.
At least 330 people, more than half of them children, were killed, according to figures released by the authorities when the tragedy ended.
Meanwhile, in Madrid, Islamic militants staged a coordinated attack using 10 separate bombs during rush hour on four commuter trains. The attacks occured on March 11, shortly before Spain held national elections. At least 193 people were confirmed dead.
The attacks were initially blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA, which denied any involvement. Later, the investigation made it clear that Islamic militants were to blame for the atrocity, and a group calling itself the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group was widely credited with the attack.
The fallout from the terrorists' action helped to bring down the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar, who had been a staunch supporter of US President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.