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Armed Men Seize Hostages At School In Southern Russia

1 September 2004 -- A force of armed attackers today stormed and barricaded themselves in a school in the Russian republic of North Ossetia, taking between 120 and 150 people, including schoolchildren, as hostages.

Ruslan Ayamov, a spokesman for the region's interior ministry, has denied media reports that the hostage-takers released some students from the school in Belsan.

North Ossetian Interior Minister Kazbek Dzantiev said the militants are threatening to kill 50 children for every one of their members killed by security forces.

ITAR-TASS reported that two people have been killed and nine injured at or near the school. The Russian news agency also said the militants are demanding the release of fighters captured in Ingushetia in June during a rebel raid in the region.

Today's crisis comes a day after a suicide bomber killed 10 people and wounded more than 50 others in Moscow. On 24 August, bomb attacks blew up two Russian passenger jets over southern Russia, killing 89 people.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said today that a war with no visible enemies or front line is now being waged on Russia. Ivanov made his remarks to journalists in Moscow about yesterday's suicide-bomb attack in Moscow.

"In essence, war has been declared on us. It is a different kind seen and there is no front line. Nevertheless, the threat is quite real, and you can see that," Ivanov said.

(compiled from agency reports and RFE/RL's Russian Service)

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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