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Russian Hostage Crisis Appears To Reach Dramatic Conclusion

3 September 2004 -- The three-day hostage crisis at a school in Russia's republic of North Ossetia appeared to reach a dramatic conclusion today as special forces stormed the building amid continuous shooting and explosions.

ITAR-TASS and Interfax now report that Russian soldiers are almost in full control of the building. Events began to unfold rapidly this morning as militants inside the school reportedly started shooting at crowds of parents and ambulance workers outside the building.

Russian media say the militants then set off a series of explosions inside the building. At this point, small groups of hostages began to escape and the operation to end the siege was launched.

Large groups of children continue to stream out of the school building, some half-naked, others on stretchers, to be reunited with anxious parents.

Some of the militants were reported to have tried to escape.

Amid the chaotic developments, there were no immediate figures on casualties. Officials earlier today said more than 500 hostages were being held in the school by an estimated 20 militants.

The militants had earlier said their main demand was independence for Chechnya.

(compiled from agency reports)

For full coverage of the hostage situation in North Ossetia, see RFE/RL's webpage on Ossetia.

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

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