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Russia Absolves Security Forces in Beslan Siege


Russian prosecutors found no mistakes in the way officials handled the hostage siege at a school in southern Russia last year. More than 330 people died in the chaotic, bloody end to the siege, more than half of them children. And the finding sparked an angry response from relatives of the victims.

A prosecutor in southern Russia says a review of events finds that police and other security forces acted properly in responding to the country's worst terrorist attack.

In a statement, Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel said an investigation did not find any wrongdoing by government forces that led to the bloody end to the siege.

Mr. Shepel did say more needs to be done to prevent terrorist acts in the future.

But this did little to temper the angry response from some of the mothers of the 186 children who died.

Susanna Dudiyeva of the Beslan Mother's Committee says they didn't expect any other conclusion, and accused prosecutors of ignoring testimony given by victims of the siege.

Annetta Gadiyeva is also in the Mother's Committee. She says its disappointing because the probe is based on theories about what happened, and no one is being called to account.

She adds that the relatives wanted something more concrete about what occurred.

The finding differs from another probe into the terror incident by the parliament in North Ossetia, the region where Beslan is located.

That investigation did find fault with the failed rescue efforts, and urged that some officials be punished.

Results of a third investigation by the federal parliament are also due to be presented this week.

Heavily-armed militants attacked Beslan School Number One on the first day of classes last year.

They took close to 1,500 children, parents and staff members hostage inside the school gymnasium, which was rigged with explosives. The gunmen then demanded that Russian forces leave the neighboring breakaway region of Chechnya.

Two days later a still-unexplained explosion triggered a chaotic gun battle that saw scores of half-naked, bloodied children trying to run for their lives out of the burning school.

The mothers say the armed forces used flame-throwers and tanks that caused the gymnasium roof to collapse, killing most of the victims.

The government however says that once the shooting started soldiers had no choice but to storm the building.