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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beslan Residents Block Key Highway

Hundreds of distraught parents and grandparents of children who were killed in the Beslan school massacre blocked a key highway in North Ossetia for three days late last week to underline demands that the republic's president step down.

The protesters also called for an international investigation into the Sept. 1-3 terrorist seizure of the school, which left more than 330 hostages dead.

The protest ended late Saturday after Dmitry Kozak, President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Southern Federal District, promised to visit the area Tuesday.

North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov met with the demonstrators on Friday in a failed attempt to calm their anger.

"If you have questions about who went where, or who said what, I am not involved in the investigation," Dzasokhov told protesters, Itar-Tass reported.

He also warned against actions that could lead to strife and said there were unspecified, "invisible" people seeking to use the situation to achieve political goals.

Dzasokhov had faced heavy popular pressure to step down after the Beslan tragedy but remained in office, though he fired the republic's government.

Some 400 protesters rallied on the main highway leading to Beslan from the republic's capital, Vladikavkaz, on Thursday and Friday. Alan Doyev, spokesman for the North Ossetian Interior Ministry, said Beslan residents were helping the protesters, bringing wood for bonfires, sandwiches and warm clothes. State television showed images of people sitting around fires and holding pictures of dead and missing children.

Kozak spoke by telephone with the protesters Saturday and told them that Dzasokhov's future tenure must be solved "exclusively by legitimate means," Kozak's spokesman Fyodor Shcherbakov said.

The protesters, whose numbers had by then dwindled to about 100, agreed to dismantle their tents and leave, Shcherbakov said.

Protester Galina Gaburova said late Saturday that demonstrators were leaving after Kozak pledged to meet with them on Tuesday "and consider all our complaints in compliance with the law," Itar-Tass reported.

The last protesters left at about 11 p.m., Interfax reported.

Many Beslan residents are incensed at republic authorities for failing to avert the attack on the school, which was seized Sept. 1 by gunmen who held more than 1,000 people hostage for three days. The seizure ended in explosions and gunfire, and more than half of the hostages killed were children.

A police source in North Ossetia said Thursday on condition of anonymity that some protesters accused authorities of understating the number of assailants who attacked the school and of neglecting to adequately search for four children they said remain missing. Some also criticized a parliamentary investigation into the attack, the source said.

Authorities have said 32 raiders took part in the attack, and that 31 of them were killed while one was captured.