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Most of the victims died during the chaotic rescue efforts (AFP)
29 November 2005 -- The North Ossetian parliamentary commission investigating last year's Beslan hostage tragedy today released its findings before regional lawmakers.
The commission’s conclusions, contained in a 30-page report presented by deputy parliament speaker Stanislav Kesaev, contradict some aspects of the official account of events given by federal authorities.
On 1 September 1 2004, militants linked to the Chechen separatist movement took more than 1,000 people hostage in Beslan's School No. 1. The three-day crisis ended with a chaotic rescue attempt by Russian federal forces and the death of more than 330 children and adults.
Russia blames the tragedy on the hostage takers, saying federal forces decided to storm the school only after the militants detonated a bomb positioned inside the school.
But Kesaev said today the findings of the probe he led for more than a year did not support the official account of events.
He told parliamentarians that the investigative commission is not convinced that the hostage takers should be held responsible for the initial blast.
Some eyewitnesses have said it was gunfire heard coming from the direction of the federal forces that triggered the bloodbath.
Also today, Kesaev confirmed eyewitness accounts that say federal forces used tanks, mortars and grenade-launchers during the rescue operation. It remains unclear, however, at which stage of the assault the equipment was used.
Russia’s Regnum news agency says the Beslan Mothers Committee is unhappy with the report, saying it fails to address queries regarding the attitude of federal authorities during the crisis.
A federal parliamentary commission headed by Aleksandr Torshin, deputy speaker of the Russian Federation Council, is expected to release its own findings later this week.
Also today, Russia’s Deputy General Prosecutor Nikolai Shepel said a new federal investigation into the Beslan tragedy would be concluded no earlier than 1 March 2006.
Shepel said investigators have identified 23 of the 32 hostage takers.
The only surviving suspected militant, Nurpashi Kulaev, is currently on trial by North Ossetia’s Supreme Court.