Saturday, September 04, 2004

Among the Tombs

This Associated Press story from Russia contains many details of the recent seizure of schoolchildren by Chechen Islamic terrorists in Russia. It includes a slideshow which doesn't tell you anything you don't know already and nothing you are likely to ever forget. Gore in abundance, but the heart-stopper is a woman in a black dress stooped over the body of her child, rearranging his hair to make him look like the day she saw him last. And then there is this window into the terrorist soul:

Alla Gadieyeva, 24, who was taken captive with her 7-year-old son and mother, said the militants displayed terrifying brutality from the start. One gunman, whose pockets were stuffed with grenades, held up the corpse of a man just shot in front of hundreds of hostages and warned: "If a child utters even a sound, we'll kill another one."

When children fainted from lack of sleep, food and water, their masked and camouflaged captors simply sneered, she said, adding that adults implored children to drink their own urine in the intolerable heat of the gym.

There are reports, like this one from the International Herald Tribune, that some of the terrorists were from Arab countries. "The Federal Security Service chief in North Ossetia, Valery Andreyev, said in the evening that 10 militants killed in gunfights with security forces were from Arab countries, and President Vladimir Putin’s adviser on Chechnya, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, said nine were 'Arab mercenaries.'" It provides us with the kind specificity that is so comforting, as if knowing brought us closer to understanding. Yet for some understanding has been too near at hand, something to evade at any price. It has beckoned to us from the eaves of the dark wood, haunted us in our dreams as a familiar. But we awake determined never to let it see the light of day, lest it shatter our world. We know you, shadow, but dare not speak your name. Dateline Europe: the EU seeks Russian explanation for school siege toll:

Valkenburg, Netherlands, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The European Union asked Russia to explain the bloody end to the siege of a school by Chechen gunmen on Friday with huge loss of life. In a statement in the name of the presidency of the 25-nation EU, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said all countries should work together to prevent such tragedies. "But we also would like to know from the Russian authorities how this tragedy could have happened," he added.

EU ministers avoided direct criticism of Moscow's handling of the hostage crisis and expressed sympathy with the Russian people and government. ... British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said "terrorists" were to blame for the death toll and declined to comment when asked whether Russian authorities had bungled the chaotic rescue bid.