Beefed-up security could have prevented Beslan siege, probe head says
The carelessness and negligence of local law officials allowed militants to seize hundreds of hostages at a Beslan school last year, the head of a Russian parliamentary commission said Wednesday.
Alexander Torshin said the regional police department had ignored instructions to strengthen security at schools.
The hostage-taking resulted in the death of 331 people, more than half of them children. Most victims died in explosions and gunfire during a raid that ended the three-day siege.
Torshin said Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev and his deputy had sent telegrams less than two weeks before the militants' raid that instructed the regional police department in North Ossetia to beef up security on the first day of school.
"That could have prevented the terrorist attack, but they weren't fulfilled," Torshin said. "The counter-terrorist operation was plagued by shortcomings....many law enforcement officers did not know how to act in an emergency situation."
He also criticized authorities for under-reporting the number of hostages involved. According to survivors of the siege, the misinformation angered the gunmen.
Torshin's findings come a day after Russian prosecutors of a separate probe said police and security forces are not to blame for the handling of the siege.
- FROM DEC. 28, 2005: Authorities not to blame for Beslan tragedy, prosecutor says
But an earlier probe by a regional legislative panel said the authorities botched the rescue effort and should be punished.
Five senior policemen have been charged with criminal negligence for failing to prevent the raid.