Russia buries its school siege victims

Tearful mothers and grim-faced men have begun burying the victims of Russia's worst ever hostage crisis that left more than 300 people dead.

    Twenty-two of the 338 dead are being buried on Sunday

    Dozens of well-wishers laid red carnations and plastic bottles of water at the wreckage of School Number One, its charred remains a haunting memory to a three-day deadlock that ended in bloody chaos.

    "Why? What for? What for?" wept one woman over one of two coffins set under a blue tarp in a courtyard in Beslan, a town of 40,000, where seemingly everyone knew someone who was affected by the attacks.

    Some 22 people were expected to be laid to rest on Sunday and the Patriarch of Russia's Orthodox church, Alexy II, asked that a mass be held in every church across the country to remember the victims of the siege.

    Throughout Beslan, coffin lids leaned against apartment house entrances, alongside wooden stakes bearing names of the dead. Wailing echoed through some courtyards, where families were preparing food for ritual meals.

    Mutilated

    Toll figures continued to swing wildly, with the official toll standing at 338 people, with more than 400 others hospitalised.

    Medical workers say several
    bodies have yet to be identified

    But one worker at a main morgue in the region said that nearly 400 bodies had already come in.

    "As of yesterday, we have tagged 394," said Vita, a medical worker at the Vladikavkaz morgue.

    "Some of the bodies are so mutilated the relatives can't recognise them, so we are taking samples of hair and blood," she said.

    The three-day hostage drama ended in nightmarish scenes with half-naked, bloodied children fleeing from the school and the bodies of the dead rushed out on stretchers.

    Orthodox churches across Russia held memorial services and
    Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Monday and Tuesday days of national mourning.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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