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Several Hostage Takers Still Exchanging Gunfire At School

3 September 2004 -- Russian security officials say there remain several armed militants in a North Ossetian school who are holding "some" children hostage, hours after fierce fighting that killed a number of people.

Russian news agencies quote authorities as saying three militants in the school cellar are still exchanging fire with security forces, hours after most of the children and adult hostages escaped from the school.

There are conflicting reports on the sequence of events that led Russian troops to storm the building where militants -- some strapped with explosives -- had been holding several hundred children and adults hostage for more than two days.

North Ossetia's regional chief of the Federal Security Service, Valeii Andreev, said the government forces did not initiate the battle. "I want to point out that we we had not planned any armed action," he said. "We expected to continue talks for the peaceful release of the hostages."

There are conflicting reports about the number of people who have died in the fighting today at the school in Beslan. Witnesses have reported seeing an estimated 100 bodies inside the school, while an adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Aslambek Aslakhanov, has said the death toll "could be much more than 150."


For full coverage on the recent wave of terror attacks in Russia, see RFE/RL's webpage on "Terror In Russia".