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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Librarian in Beslan School Dies, Bringing Toll to 334

NALCHIK -- A woman injured during the 2004 school hostage taking in the southern town of Beslan died of her injuries Friday, bringing the total death toll to 334, a Beslan activist said.

Yelena Avdonina, 33, died of hematoma in a Beslan hospital, said Mairbek Tuayev, head of a group distributing humanitarian assistance to the victims of the attack.

He said Avdonina had undergone several operations.

Avdonina, who had worked as a librarian in Beslan School No. 1, was held hostage for three days, together with her son and more than 1,100 children, parents and staff, in the school's gymnasium by at least 31 heavily armed militants.

Avdonina's son survived the siege, which ended on Sept. 3, 2004, when one of the militants' explosive devices went off and security forces stormed the building. The ensuing maelstrom of explosions and gunfire killed the majority of the victims, more than half of whom were children; 12 special forces and emergency workers also died.

Two other former hostages died of their wounds in August and December last year, and another former hostage died last August, which had brought the overall death toll to 333 -- a figure that does not include the hostage takers.

Survivors and victims' relatives claim many deaths occurred because troops fired at the school using tanks and flame-throwers, setting off a fire that caused the roof to collapse over many wounded. They blamed authorities for failing to investigate the circumstances of the attack properly and the bungled rescue operation.

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who claimed responsibility for the Beslan siege and other ruthless terrorist attacks in Russia, was killed in an explosion in July, authorities say. DNA tests on the remains remain incomplete.