New schools replace scene of Beslan hostage horror

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The Independent Online

Two new schools have opened in Beslan in the Russian republic of North Ossetia to replace the school where more than 300 people died, most of them children, after being taken hostage by Chechen separatists who held police and troops at bay for three days last September.

Russian television yesterday broadcast footage of the opening ceremonies, showing rooms with new computers and furniture and teenagers - some of whom were hostages - wandering through the halls looking at maps and pictures. The school's principal, Lyudmila Dzusova, said that the schools will open for classes on 5 September - four days after the official nationwide beginning of classes. "Every day we meet children who studied at School No 1, who come here. There is an inner fear but after walking around the school, we organise tours for the children and parents and teachers, they end up pretty relieved," Ms Dzusova said.

A banner on one of the school's glass-and-concrete facade read "Thank You, Moscow, Thank You, United Russia" - a reference to the Kremlin-affiliated political party that dominates Russia's parliament. The Mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, attended the opening ceremonies.

Ismel Shaov, a spokesman for the regional interior ministry, said all schools in North Ossetia, have now been equipped with alarm systems and will be staffed with security officers.

The two schools have been built to replace School No 1, which was seized by armed militants on 1 September with more than 1,100 hostages inside. The three-day standoff ended in a chaotic gun battle in which 331 people died.

School No 1 is a burnt-out shell littered with rubbish, graffiti, shell holes and broken windows.