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Death and horror at siege school

Reporter tells of '100 bodies on smouldering floor'

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Officials hope for more progress after militants release 26 hostages.

Tense standoff at the primary school. CNN's Ryan Chilcote reports

Chechen rebels are blamed for dozens of attacks in recent years.
Chechnya (Russia)

BESLAN, Russia (CNN) -- Chilling accounts have been given from the scene of the horrific ordeal of hundreds held captive at the Beslan school in southern Russia -- and its deadly aftermath.

'100 dead bodies'

"The gymnasium... is completely burnt out ... its's an entire wing of the school. The roof has gone, it's caved in, the floor is covered in smouldering and burning debris.

"My cameraman did manage to get through the door just for a few moments with his camera and he tells me in his estimation there are as many as 100 dead bodies, I'm afraid, lying on the smouldering floor of the gymnasium where we know a large number of the hostages were being held." -- Julian Manyon of ITV news

'Bodies carried out'

"One witness said they saw ten or fifteen bodies being taken out... I personally saw one woman who appeared to be dead carried out on a stretcher.

"As quickly as Russian forces can pick around inside those school grounds they are they are bringing bodies out with them. We saw two wounded soldiers and one soldier who appeared to be dead carried out on stretchers," -- CNN Correspondent at the scene, Ryan Chilcote

"The terrorists planted a lot of mines and booby-traps filled with metal bolts in the gym." -- Defense Ministry spokesman to Interfax.

'Fighters shot children'

"I smashed the window to get out.... People were running in all directions.... The rebels were shooting from the roof." -- Boy with a bandaged hand on Russian television, quoted by Reuters

"Those children who remained in the school, in general, were not hurt. The ones who suffered were the children in the group which ran from the school and on whom the fighters opened fire." -- Unidentified security official quoted by Tass.

"The bandits opened fierce fire on the running adults and children. In order to save the lives of the hostages, return fire was opened on the bandits. Local people who were armed also then opened fire on the bandits. This did not allow the special forces to do their work effectively." -- Regional FSB security service chief Valery Andreyev

Start of the raid

"A military truck appeared in front of the school building. People wearing camouflage and masks jumped out of the truck -- I could see only their eyes and beards.

"They opened fire, everyone started running about. Some people, including myself, managed to hide behind a fence.

"Several gunmen stayed outside, near the entrance. They started screaming in very good Russian: 'Russians, Russians, come here, don't be afraid!" One of the terrorists tried to lure children with a chocolate.' -- Eyewitness Rosa Dudiyeva to Kommersant daily, describing how the gunmen offered chocolate bars to the shocked children as a "bait" to show they didn't mean anything bad for them

"There were two women among them, wearing black clothes. They were throwing some grenades, and then they started shooting and encircling us. I grabbed my little sister's hand and ran towards the trees. No one was shooting at us." Tenth-grade pupil Zaur Dzafarov, who managed to flee from the terrorists, to Kommersant daily

Hostage numbers

"You know, there aren't 350 people in there, but 1,500 in all. People are lying one on top of another." -- Freed hostage Zalina Dzandarova to Kommersant daily

"Are you crazy? There are 1,020 people in there!" -- freed hostage Adel Itskayeva to Gazeta


"They took some of the injured out of the gym and finished them off right there in the corridor." -- Freed hostage Zalina Dzandarova to Kommersant daily

Conditions inside

"People are lying on the floor next to one another. The terrorists separated us. Those, who did not feel very good, were placed in locker rooms. They made male hostages break the windows, because it was too stuffy in the gym." -- Freed hostage Zalina Dzandarova to Kommersant daily

According to Pravda, Dzandzzarova said that there were a lot of wounded people during the first minutes of the terrorist attack. The militants shot those, who could not walk inside the building or remained lying on the ground of the school yard.

Dzandzarova also said that two suicide bombers had killed themselves on Wednesday - they exploded themselves in the corridor, where male hostages were being kept.

'Gym mined'

"They told us to sit down and began to mine the gym. Two big explosive devices have been placed in the basketball hoop." -- Unidentified freed woman hostage to Izvestia daily

Captors' behavior

"In general, they do not talk much and they talk a lot in whispers ... In the main they explained themselves with gestures. But it did happen that they spoke. By their speech, it is possible to say that among them were Chechens and also Ingush. We did not see their faces. They did not take off their masks." -- Unidentified freed woman hostage to Izvestia daily

Children crying

During the night, she said, children occasionally began to cry.

"Then the fighters would fire in the air to restore quiet. In the morning they told us that they would not give us anything more to drink because the authorities were not ready to negotiate. When children went to the toilet, some tried to drink from the tap. The fighters stopped these attempts straight away" -- Unidentified freed woman hostage to Izvestia daily

Infants held aparts

"Women with small infants greatly upset the fighters. In the morning they led them all out of the gym and put them apart on the second floor" -- Unidentified freed woman hostage to Izvestia daily

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