Russia school siege: Nine Arab attackers killed
Russian forces stormed a school Friday in southern part of the country and battled gunmen holding 1,200 hostages. An official told The AP the death toll could be more than 150. An estimated 520 people were wounded, health officials said. The regional health minister earlier reported that at least 218 children were wounded.
Hours after the operation started three of the hostage takers were reportedly blockaded in a school basement, trading fire with Russian forces.
Ten genmen were killed in the violence, including nine Arabs, an aide to President Vladimir Putin said, according to the Interfax news agency. The Arab presence among the attackers would support Putin's claim that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network was involved in the Chechen conflict, where Muslim fighters have been fighting Russian forces in a brutal a war of independence for most of the past decade.
A hostage who escaped the school told The AP that the militants numbered 28, including women wearing camouflage uniforms.
The White House branded the hostage-taking "barbaric" and "despicable" and said responsibility for dozens of lost lives rests with the terrorists. "The United States stands side-by-side with Russia in our global fight against terrorism," spokesman Scott McClellan said. (albawaba.com)
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