Eight months after it was bathed in bloodshed, Beslan is bracing itself for a trial set to re-open deep wounds. Some 330 people died – more than half of them children – in a hostage-drama at a school in the town. And today a man believed to be the only survivor among the militants involved is due to go on trial. Nur-Pashi Kulayev has insisted he personally killed no-one in the attack, which a Chechen warlord has claimed responsibility for organising.
But he faces charges including terrorism and murder. It was the first day of the school term when terror came to Beslan in Russia’s North Ossetia region. Extremists burst into School No. One – taking over 1,000 hostages. Two days later, amid explosions, the siege came to an end as security forces stormed the building.
The scale of the carnage shocked the world. Youngster Georgy Farniyev survived the nightmare. Despite the emotional scars, he promised his grandmother he would resume his studies. But for his brother things are different. “My brother does not want to study,” said Georgy.
“He stays at home. Mother teaches him herself.” Many of those left grieving accuse local authorities of incompetence in failing to protect the school. Whoever was to blame, eight months on as the trial gets underway, emotions in Beslan are still raw.