Negotiating in Beslan and beyond
[extract] On September 1, 2004, a group of terrorists took more then 1,200 hostages on the first day of school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan. The deadliest hostage crisis and at the same time the third deadliest terrorist attack in histOlY was about to unfold. After a fifty-two-hour stand-off, detonation of explosive devices inside the school triggered a chaotic rescue operation, in which 331 victims and thirty-one terrorists were killed, 176 of them children. The Beslan school hostage crisis was an unprecedented terrorist attack, both in its scale and targeting. Much more grand than the 1974 Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine attack in Ma'alot, Israel, or the 1977 take-over of a school in Bovensmilde in the Netherlands, this was the largest ever terrorist take-over of a school (Mickolus 1980, p. 494). In addition, following 911 I and the 1978 torching of a movie theater in Iran (still unresolved), Beslan is the third deadliest terrorist attack in histOlY (tied with the 1985 Air India flight 182). And finally, with the exception of the 1979 hostage crisis in Mecca and the 1996 Chechen take-over of a hospital in Kizlyar, Beslan involved the largest number of hostages in any similar crisis in history. Stemming from the above facts, it is clear that understanding the lessons of Beslan is one of the key prerequisites of designing counter terrorism strategies for the twenty-first century.
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