Thursday, November 17, 2005

Police alleges Belsan event cover-up

Russia, Nov 16 - A policeman on Tuesday accused Russian authorities of concealing the number of people held hostage before the Beslan school massacre that claimed the lives of 331 people in September 2004.

Chermen Khachirov told the ongoing trial of the only surviving alleged hostage taker that he had tried to present the authorities with a list of 900 people believed to be held captive at the school.

Russian authorities initially said the number of people taken hostage by pro-Chechen guerillas in Beslan, a town in the Russian Republic of north Ossetia, was 354. But on the last day of the three-day siege, September 3, they revised the figure up to 1,200.

"On September 1, after our service had carried out a door-to-door check (in the Caucasian town), with the aim of finding out the number of children and parents being held in the school, we drew up a list including 900 names," Khachirov told the Vladikavkaz Supreme Court.

The policeman said he presented the list to the "crisis cell" dealing with the incident but it was never mentioned again.

Families of the victims have repeatedly accused the authorities of covering up details of the siege, including minimising the number of hostages until the last day of the stand-off.


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