Survivors mark six years since Beslan massacre in Russia
Thousands of mourners lit candles and laid flowers on Wednesday in this southern Russian town as they remembered over 330 people who died in Russia's most shocking hostage tragedy six years ago.
Around 3,000 people, including survivors and relatives of those who died, gathered in the courtyard of the ruined School Number One in this small town in the mountainous region of North Ossetia in the turbulent North Caucasus.
At 9.15 am (0515 GMT) the school bell began to toll, marking the exact time when armed Chechen rebels stormed the school, as pupils and their parents were taking part in a celebration on the first day of the school term.
Hundreds of parents, relatives and survivors laid flowers and lit candles beside photographs of the victims that hung on the walls of the ruined sports hall where the hostages were held.
Many left bottles of water in what has become a traditional gesture in memory of those left without water during the three-day siege that ended in bloodshed on September 3.
Among the mourners was the leader of the North Ossetia region, Taimuraz Mamsurov, whose son and daughter are among the survivors.
A European Parliament delegation was scheduled to join in the commemoration of the tragedy.
Over 330 people, including 186 children, died when armed Chechen rebels took more than 1,000 people hostage at the school.
Five years on, a host of questions about the siege and the subsequent rescue operation remain unanswered.
Vedomosti business daily on Wednesday headlined an editorial about the tragedy "Silence over mistakes," criticising the authorities for failing to punish police and military chiefs who should have prevented the attack.
© 2010 AFP