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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Doubts on Number of Beslan Captors

ReutersA video image of dead terrorists lying in a street in Beslan, North Ossetia, on Sept. 4.
The number of terrorists who stormed the Beslan school in September may be higher than previously estimated, local officials said.

Fatima Khabalova, chief of the North Ossetian parliament's information and analysis center, told Interfax on Thursday that there have been remains of adults found at the site of the ravaged Beslan school, indicating that there could have been more hostage-takers than the 32 previously estimated.

Khabalova said that all of the adult hostages killed in the Sept.1-3 hostage-taking drama have been identified, suggesting that the other remains could be those of terrorists. She did not say how many remains were found or when they were discovered.

Four children killed in the school remain to be identified, RIA-Novosti reported Thursday. More than 330 people died in the Beslan school attack, including an estimated 172 children.

Both federal prosecutors and North Ossetian officials have previously asserted that there were 32 hostage-takers. Thirty-one of them were killed and their bodies retrieved, while one survived and is in custody, officials have said. So far the bodies of 17 terrorists have been identified.

However, some witnesses' accounts have indicated there could have been more hostage-takers, while Russian media speculated that some of the terrorists could have escaped in the confusion as vigilantes and security forces charged into the school after two blasts went off inside the building.

Stanislav Kesayev, head of the North Ossetian parliamentary commission investigating the Beslan attack, was the first official to publicly cast doubt on investigators' assessment that there were 32 terrorists.

"Witness testimony taken by the federal and North Ossetian parliamentary commissions indicates that there were more than 32 militants," Kesayev told Interfax on Tuesday.

The North Caucasus branch of the Prosecutor General's Office is investigating the attack on the school, with the assistance of the Interior Ministry and other law enforcement agencies.

Officials at the North Caucasus branch of the Prosecutor General's Office and the Prosecutor's Office of North Ossetia declined to comment when reached by telephone Thursday.

The Federation Council's commission convened Thursday to hear testimony, including from Rodina leader Dmitry Rogozin. After the session, Rogozin told the media that his testimony would help the commission determine the number of terrorists, but he would not provide his own estimates. Rogozin said that it was "quite probable" that there were more than 32 terrorists.

However, Alexander Torshin, head of the Federation Council's commission, told reporters that he had no information on whether there could have been more than 32 terrorists. Torshin said commission members plan to meet with Kesayev to hear his evidence.

Komsomolskaya Pravda on Thursday published an interview with a man who identified himself as a member of one of the commando units that fought terrorists at the school on Sept. 3.

In the interview the man, whom Komsomolskaya Pravda identified only by his first name, Vasily, claimed that he had counted 52 terrorists and that three, rather than one, of them were captured alive.

Komsomolskaya Pravda said it could not confirm whether the man had indeed participated in the operation, but still ran the interview.