Five Years on, Beslan's Survivors Feel Forsaken

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It was a sweltering summer day when Alan Adyrkhayev, a doctor, received a letter from his 11-year-old daughter Emilia. It was an unusual letter, because, for one thing, the father and daughter live in the same house in Beslan, a small, dusty city in North Ossetia, nestled in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. But Emilia's request was sufficiently important to merit writing a letter.

"This is dedicated to our mother Ira," the girl had scrawled in her child's handwriting. "The years have passed, but we will never forget your smile, your eyes and your tenderness." Emilia's declaration of love for her dead mother ended with a cry for revenge: "The Russians should kill the Ingushetians, just as they killed our Beslan."

It was Ingushetian terrorists, as well as a few Chechens, who overran School No. 1 in Beslan, on Sept. 1, 2004, taking 1,127 pupils, teachers and parents hostage. The Russian authorities, unprepared for such an act, spent little time negotiating before cold-bloodedly launching a rescue effort that ended in bloody chaos.

Never before had a terrorist attack claimed the lives of so many children. Of the 334 dead, 186 were pupils at the school or siblings of pupils. Seventeen children lost both parents, and 72 still have severe disabilities. Adyrkhayev's wife, also a physician, died in the attack. Beslan was Russia's Sept. 11.

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