Mon, Jan 24, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Massacre footage released

AFP , NEW YORK

Never-before-seen footage of the Beslan school massacre broadcast in the US late Saturday showed hostage-takers negotiating with local authorities and some mothers leaving the school with babies before the crisis spiralled to tragedy.

According to 48 Hours, the CBS program that presented the few minutes of footage, it was shot by the hostage-takers and found in the rubble of the school in the days following the massacre in southern Russia in September 2004.

Tense Negotiations

In the video the former president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, is seen negotiating with the leader of the hostage takers, Ruslan "The Colonel" Kuchbarov.

Lydia Tsalieva, principal of the primary school where the events took place, is also seen telling Kushbarov, "For Christ's sake, don't hurt a single child of mine."

Subsequent images show 11 mothers leaving the school with 14 babies, apparently as a result of the encounter between Aushev and Kuchbarov.

Because the kidnappers, according to 48 Hours, would not allow the mothers to take all their children, only the smallest, one of them decided to stay inside with an older child and gave her baby to Aushev, who is seen with the boy in his arms.

On the program, Aushev says that the hostage-takers presented a series of demands in return for the release of the hostages, including the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Chechnya.

Though he thought it unrealistic, he said he hoped Moscow would agree in order to end the crisis, and could reverse it later.

"I have four children and I imagined if my children were among the hostages. Everything should have been done to save these children," Aushev said.

Blood Bath

At least 344 people, half of them children, were killed when the hostage-taking spun out of control and ended in a fierce gunfight on Sept. 3 last year.

The deaths occurred as a result of a horrific and chaotic battle between Russian and local security forces and about 30 hostage-takers that erupted after more than 1,200 children and adults had been held in a primary school by pro-Chechen militants for three days.

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