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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beslan Attackers May Have Fled

State Duma Deputy Yury Savelyev, who is conducting an independent investigation into the Beslan school raid, said Thursday there were twice as many attackers as the government says, indicating some assailants may have escaped.

Government investigators contend that 32 armed rebels stormed School No. 1 in Beslan on Sept. 1, 2004, taking more than 1,000 students, parents and teachers hostage and launching a three-day seizure that led to the deaths of 332 victims, more than half of them children. Officials say Nurpashi Kulayev, a Chechen who was sentenced to life in prison in May, was the only attacker who survived.

Savelyev, a member of the Rodina faction in the Duma and a dissident member of the parliamentary commission investigating the raid, claimed there were at least 56 and possibly as many as 78 attackers. He cited results of a separate probe that he is conducting.

"There needs to be an additional investigation into what happened to the rest" of the militants, Savelyev said.

"I merely establish facts," said Savelyev, who has been careful not to criticize the authorities on the basis of his findings, in order to avoid accusations of political motivation.

But Marina Litvinovich, a leading activist investigating the school seizure and editor of the web site where Savelyev's report was published, said the findings were a major embarrassment for the authorities because they suggest that some attackers were able to escape.

A preliminary report by the parliamentary commission largely supported prosecutors' accounts, while laying the bulk of the blame for allowing the attack to occur on regional authorities, not the federal officials some victims' relatives say bear the most responsibility.