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US Congress Remembers Victims of Terrorism in Russia - 2004-09-14

The U.S. Congress has been paying tribute to the hundreds of people killed in the terrorist takeover of a school in southern Russia, as well as other recent incidents in that country. The House of Representatives Monday approved a resolution condemning the attacks.

Late Monday, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Congressman Dennis Hastert, gathered with others in a room of the U.S. Capitol to sign a condolence book for the Russian people.

Earlier, lawmakers spoke in support of a resolution condemning the terrorist attack in Beslan, Russia and remembering victims of attacks on two civilian airliners and at a Moscow railway station, as read here by the House clerk.

House Clerk: "?resolution condemning the series of terrorist attacks against the Russian Federation that occurred in late August and early September 2004."

Republican Congressmen Ed Royce, was a key sponsor of the resolution.

"One thing is clear," he said. "Nothing can justify this deliberate targeting of innocent children. The use of children as targets by these trained terrorists is reprehensible. These were children who were specifically targeted [and] this resolution rightly condemns this savagery."

Mr. Royce made clear he believes the incident in Beslan was connected with attempts by the al-Qaida terrorist network to spread its influence.

"The children and people of Beslan, Russia have now joined the people of New York, and Bali, and Moscow, and Karachi, and Jerusalem, and Madrid, and many other places around the globe as victims of international terrorism," said Mr. Royce.

Congressman Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, was also a sponsor of the measure. Describing the events in Beslan as Russia's September 11, a reference to the attacks in the United States three years ago, Mr. Lantos called for unity in the war on terror.

"Confronting, resisting, and defeating Islamic terrorism must be a global effort," said Mr. Lantos. "The most meaningful contribution that we in Congress can make is to continue our commitment to carry on this battle until final victory."

There was also this comment from Republican Congressman Chris Smith, who has been one of the most outspoken of lawmakers on the question of Russia's policies in Chechnya.

"If the terrorists thought that they were helping the people of Chechnya by killing innocent people in North Ossetia, they were tragically in error," he added. "The people of Chechnya seek a respite from war. They and many in Russia want a just peace, not more carnage. Slaughtering children and traumatizing many more, betrays the cause of peace."

More than 300 people were killed after gunmen seized the school in Beslan on September 1.

In response, President Vladimir Putin announced proposed changes to Russia's political system, and enhanced powers for Moscow, to fight terrorism.

President Bush and his wife Laura recently went to the Russian Embassy in Washington to personally convey their condolences over the incident in Beslan, Russia.

In other actions Monday, the House of Representatives also approved two other non-binding resolutions.

One expresses what it calls the grave concern of Congress over violation of human rights and civil liberties by the government of Syria, while the other expresses support for freedom in Hong Kong.