Mon, Jan 24, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Families of Beslan school massacre cancel protest

AFP , BESLAN, RUSSIA

Families of victims of the Beslan school hostage massacre have suspended their blockade of a major highway in southern Russia after being promised a meeting with a top aide to President Vladimir Putin, organizers said yesterday.

A large tent blocking the road was taken down late Saturday and by yesterday all of the 150 or so protesters had dispersed, Rada Maliyeva, a spokeswoman for the local Teacher's Committee group which helped organize the demonstration, told reporters.

The protesters were demanding the resignation of the top official in the region, North Ossetia President Alexander Dzasokhov, whom they accuse of poorly handling the crisis last autumn, and the opening of an international investigation into the tragedy.

They blocked the key road for three days and agreed to disperse only after being told that Putin's representative for the north Caucasus, Dmitry Kozak, would travel to Beslan tomorrow to hear their grievances. Maliyeva said the protesters could decide to reinstate their blockade if their demand for a vote of no-confidence in Dzasokhov and for officials to be held accountable for the massacre were not satisfied.

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

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