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Russian Hostage Situation In Third Day --> 3 September 2004 -- The hostage crisis at a school in the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia entered its third day today with few signs of an imminent resolution in sight.

Parents spent a second night outside the school in Beslan where militants -- according to local officials -- are holding more than 300 hostages, many of them children.

Yesterday, the hostage takers released at least 26 women and children. Some of those released said the number of hostages is far larger than the figures cited by officials. Two women quoted by the media said the number of hostages is actually closer to 1,500.

This morning, Valerii Andreev, a top regional Federal Security Service official leading operations to free the hostages, said talks had been resumed with the militants.

Russian authorities have ruled out using force to end the siege in North Ossetia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday said the most important thing was the safety of the hostages.

Negotiations so far have had little effect. The militants have not allowed food or drink in, although some water is available.

Little is known about the armed group or their demands. Russian officials suspect they are from neighboring Chechnya. Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov has denied that his forces are involved in the siege.


For the latest news on the hostage situation in North Ossetia, see RFE/RL's webpage on Ossetia.