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September 2, 2009

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Beslan again mourns for kids

YESTERDAY would have been Georgy Daurov's very first day of school in Beslan, Russia. His mother, Svetlana, scoffed at the idea that the passage of time could ease the sorrow of losing her two-year-old son five years ago in Russia's worst terrorist attack.

"Time heals all wounds - the person who thought that up never had anyone die, never mind a young son," she said, tears streaming down her face. "We live with this every day of our lives."

The wails of mothers, fathers, grandparents and neighbors echoed again out the jagged roof and broken windows of Beslan's School No. 1 yesterday.

What is the first day of school for millions of children around Russia will forever be a day of grief in this small town in the turbulent North Caucasus.

Thirty-two heavily armed militants - Chechens and others - seized the school on September 1, 2004, herding more than 1,000 men, women and children into the gymnasium and demanding that Russian forces withdraw from war-torn Chechnya.

The hostages were packed in for nearly three days, thirsty, hungry and terrified until the afternoon of September 3, when mayhem and gunfire broke out after explosions tore through the gym, and images of bloodied, mostly naked children fleeing the crossfire shocked the world. In all, 334 people died, more than half of them children.

With violence spiking through the North Caucasus, few survivors or relatives of victims believe much has changed since then. Few are satisfied with the official investigations, which largely absolved police of blame for not preventing the attack.

Many maintain that law enforcement agencies botched the rescue, using flame throwers, grenade launchers and heavy guns that made the situation worse.


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