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Beslan Begins Burying Victims Of Hostage Massacre

5 September 2004 -- The first funerals took place today for victims of the school siege in Russia's southern republic of North Ossetia.

Grieving parents and relatives buried children in the town of Beslan as workers hurried to dig more graves for the hundreds of dead from the 3 September massacre.

The Russian Red Cross has also appealed for international aid to help survivors, saying it needs medical equipment for local hospitals, including ventilators and anesthetics. Some governments, including Germany and the United States, have responded with announcements of aid shipments.

Confusion still remains about the exact number of victims, although at least 330 people, many of them school-aged children, have been confirmed dead. Some 180 people remained unaccounted for late today, as numerous bodies must still be identified.

More than 540 people were wounded, also mostly children.

Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii said today that, according to the latest information, 32 terrorists were involved in the school siege. The bodies of 30 of them have been found.

Russian authorities said they have arrested three people in connection with the hostage taking. ITAR-TASS quoted North Ossetian Interior Minister Ismel Sharov as saying the three were detained in Beslan. He said three have given "confessional testimonies" and that authorities hope to track down all those responsible for the attack based on that information.

Russian Patriarch Aleksii II today held a mass in Moscow to pray for the victims of the tragedy.

(compiled from wire reports)

[For more on the North Ossetian hostage tragedy and the recent wave of terrorism in Russia, see RFE/RL's "Terror in Russia" page.]

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