New Beslan video proves bloody end caused by Russian forces.
The Beslan Mothers' Committee says the footage disproves the official version that the detonation of a boobytrap device planted by Chechen separatists inside the building caused the carnage in Russian town.
Previously unseen film proves that the bloody end to the 2004 Beslan siege was caused by security forces firing on a school crammed with hostages, not by blasts from within, a victim support group says.
The Beslan Mothers' Committee says the footage disproves the official version that the detonation of a boobytrap device planted by Chechen separatists inside the building caused the carnage at School No.1, in the southern Russian town of Beslan.
Some 333 victims, half of them children, were killed in the siege, which ended in chaos when security forces stormed the school gymnasium to free more than 1,000 children and parents held captive for three days.
Committee head Susanna Dudiyeva said the video supports her conviction that security forces fired two grenade launcher rounds on the sports hall, igniting a fire that quickly engulfed the building. "Why did they fire where there were children, on the sports hall?" Dudiyeva said to reporters after the film was shown at a local cultural centre this week.
Investigators have yet to deliver a final report on modern Russia's most harrowing hostage tragedy. Relatives of the dead say the videotape, received anonymously by post, supports their conviction that there has been a cover-up.
"The prosecutor's office rejects or ignores all our inquiries and insists that only the terrorists are to blame for what happened," said Dudiyeva. "We do not agree with that. We keep finding new evidence and we intend to prove to the prosecutor's office what really happened." Nobody answered a telephone call seeking comment on Saturday from the Prosecutor General's press office.
Officials have said the more than 30 militants who seized the school on Sept. 1, 2004, the first day of the academic year, had been determined to cause massive loss of life. Many male hostages were executed, ruling out a negotiated solution. Only one captor survived, Nurpashi Kulayev, who was jailed last year for life for his part in the siege.
The film, apparently shot by an investigator on a hand-held camera with the time and date shown on the screen, gives a graphic timeline of events on Sept. 3, as the three-day hostage crisis descends into bloody chaos.
In one scene shot at lunchtime, escaping children, stripped to their underwear, run into the arms of civilian and military rescuers and beg for water. Then, at 3:08 pm, there are two loud blasts and sustained automatic gunfire. A large cloud of smoke can be seen rising outside the school building.
At 5:49 pm, after the crisis is over, investigators examine some of the boobytrap devices that did not go off, lying on a table in a small room. They are made of plastic bottles filled with ball bearings. One voice is heard saying: "They said there were two explosions, a hole in the wall and then they started running. "The hole in the wall is not from this (kind of) explosion. Apparently someone fired," the voice continues, adding that many victims bore no sign of shrapnel wounds.
Surveying the carnage
Next morning, a uniformed investigator surveys the carnage of the school's sports hall, where charred and mutilated bodies lie under wreckage. On camera, he points out that a large group of victims died under a basketball hoop where one boobytrap exploded. But he also says the other devices did not go off. He then pays close attention to a hole in the floor, next to a wall, which he calls a "puncture of an explosive character".
Other footage shows a large hole in the wall of the sports hall. "For a long time we have been trying to clarify the nature of the first explosion, and this tape proves that the explosions happened from outside the building," said Dudiyeva. Dudiyeva's interpretation matches the account of one member of the Beslan commission who last year published a minority report. Yuri Savelyev said two grenade rounds were fired on the sports hall from a building controlled by security forces. But, last December, the official commission exonerated the security forces, saying "the cause of the explosion was the terrorists' actions". (more)
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