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Police Under Fire for Beslan

North Ossetian police were warned several weeks before the Beslan hostage crisis that rebels were planning a major hostage-taking attack in the republic, the Truth of Beslan web site reported Tuesday, citing police communications.

An Aug. 18, 2004, teletype message from North Ossetia's deputy interior minister, identified as Batrbek Dzutsev, to police chiefs throughout the republic specifically warned that rebels were planning to take hostages at a civilian facility, according to photocopies of several police cables posted on the web site Tuesday.

The teletype message said rebels would congregate in areas adjacent to the border between North Ossetia and Ingushetia in mid-August to plan an attack modeled after the deadly 1995 raid by Chechen rebels on the southern town of Budyonnovsk.

In three other teletype messages to local police chiefs, Dzutsev and other senior police officials demanded that security be beefed up at the Ingush-Ossetian border and at schools to prevent terrorist attacks on Sept. 1, the first day of school. They also instructed policemen on the ground to make dirt roads from Ingushetia to North Ossetia unfit for automobile traffic.

"There is no doubt that they were warning about terrorist acts planned in the city and the [local police force] even set up cordons near its own building and a nearby road to protect themselves," Voice of Beslan leader Svetlana Kesayeva said by telephone from Beslan.

More than 40 terrorists drove a truck from Ingushetia to Beslan and took more than 1,000 people hostage on Sept. 1, 2004.

More than 330 people, more than half of them children, were killed.

A court found three Beslan police officers guilty of negligence for failing to stop the gunmen. They were immediately amnestied. Several Ingush police officers are currently on trial for failing to stop the attackers on their way from Ingushetia to North Ossetia.

Kesayeva and Marina Litvinovich, who runs the Pravda Beslana web site, complained about a lack of justice. Litvinovich said the teletypes have been published to draw attention to the issue.

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