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Putin Orders Probe of Beslan Massacre of 2004

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia's top prosecutor, General Vladimir Ustinov, to investigate last year's hostage crisis at Beslan, a town where more than 330 children and adults died in a bloody confrontation between militants and Russian forces.

Mr. Putin's action was announced Saturday as a mournful crowd of thousands of people gathered at Beslan's bullet-scarred primary school to mourn last year's bloodshed in southern Russia. Most of those who died in a salvo of bullets and bombs when authorities stormed the building were young children.

Russian news agencies say the Kremlin leader ordered the country's top investigative official to launch "an all-encompassing investigation into all existing information on this case."

The president's gesture came a full year after Russian forces stormed the building and overwhelmed militants holding more than 1,000 children and parents as hostages. However, it was the first top-level acknowledgement of a multitude of complaints raised by the Beslan victims' parents.

A Western reporter attending Saturday's somber memorial in Beslan said the atmosphere was one of quiet grief, although many parents are enraged that no one in authority has been held accountable for last year's carnage. Many in Beslan are reported to feel that Mr. Putin should take personal responsibly for the tragedy.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.