Chechen warlord ordered world’s bloodiest school massacre killing 333 hostages

Although horror reports of school shootings typically come from the US, the deadliest school massacre of all time occurred in Chechnya across three days in September 2004.

The Beslan school siege was ordered by feared Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who sent members of the Riyad-us Saliheen (a Chechen separatist terror group) to take hostages at the school, hoping to force a Russian withdrawal from the region.

It began on September 1 with 32 armed terrorists storming the school and claiming over 1,000 hostages, mostly young children.

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Some were killed in the initial assault although most were herded into the school's 10m by 25m gym.

The Riyad-us Saliheen rigged the gym hall with explosives and held them there for a total of 52 hours without food or water. Many eventually resorted to drinking their own urine.

The first round of orchestrated killings came on that first day, when the attackers singled out 15-20 of the strongest male teachers and took them into a side room where a female bombers' explosive vest was detonated.

Nur-Pashi Kulayev, the one attacker who survived, would later claim their leader (not Basayev, who wasn't present at the school) actually detonated the vest remotely to kill the terrorists in the side room after they expressed concerns about taking kids hostage.

"The children and women were captured and forced into the school building. Then the militants started shouting: 'The police station is nearby, let's seize it. Why seize the school?'," ITAR-Tass quoted Kulayev as saying.

Around 50 people escaped the initial assault and alerted Russian authorities, who rushed to set up a perimeter to began the siege.

The terrorists presented authorities with Basayev's demands but negotiations were fraught. As the days wore on, the hostage takers grew tired and unpredictable, reportedly as a result of drug withdrawal.

Russian authorities claimed they "listened to German heavy metal group Rammstein on personal stereos during the siege to keep themselves edgy and fired up".

On September 3, while medical workers were being sent in to collect corpses, an explosion was heard and the terrorists opened fire. A second came after and soon the building was up in flames.

Armed with guns and rockets, Russian special forces and local volunteers stormed the school as explosions continued. It took around 12 hours to suppress the militants, by which time 333 people including 186 kids had died. All but one of the 32 terrorists were killed.

Basayev claimed responsibility in the days that followed, having asked Vladimir Putin for "independence in exchange for security".

He died on July 10, 2006, when receiving an arms load at a terrorist stronghold in Ingushetia, a republic bordering Chechnya.

Russian security forces claimed they were involved in his death, although explosive experts have said it was likely the result of the careless handling of mines.

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"The man whose corpse came to us for research died from a mine-explosive injury,” Ossetian forensic experts say.

"The explosive device was quite powerful, of a fragmentation type, and the victim was in close proximity to the epicentre. This is evidenced by charring and detachment of the limbs, crushed chest, most likely the bomb was lying on the ground."

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