(Washington) – United States Helsinki Commission leaders today expressed their sympathy to the relatives of the victims of the terrorist massacre in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russian Federation.
“Words cannot adequately express the shock and sorrow we feel at the events in Beslan,” stated Commission Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). “We offer our deepest sympathy to the relatives and loved ones of the victims of the Beslan massacre.”
“The perpetrators and planners of this terrorist act have committed a heinous crime against the most innocent of victims,” said Ranking Commissioner Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD). “The civilized world grieves with the people of Russia as they bury their children.”
“We stand united with the people of Russia in denouncing the forces of international terrorism,” said Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). “If requested, our government should render all appropriate assistance to the Russian Government in tracking down those responsible for the atrocity in Beslan, including any terrorists who may have escaped. Russia and the U.S. should work together, within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to further strengthen cooperation in combating the common threat of terrorism.”
“This horrific act carried out by fanatical terrorists allegedly on behalf of the Chechen people will only exacerbate the suffering and violence throughout the North Caucasus,” concluded Ranking Senate Commissioner Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT). “They have killed hundreds and condemned thousands more to lives of fear and desperation.”
On September 1, 2004, terrorists seized School No. 1 in the North Ossetian city of Beslan, Russia and held over 1,000 children, teachers, school employees and parents hostage under inhuman conditions for more than two days. In the ensuing armed confrontation with authorities, terrorists opened fire on their hostages, resulting in the loss of more than 330 lives.
According to the Russian Federation Ministry of Emergency Situations, as of September 6, 156 of the deceased were children. The Russian Security Service claimed that 10 of the approximately 30 terrorists involved in the hostage-taking were foreigners. The terrorists were reportedly seeking release of combatants fighting for the independence of Chechnya. Conflicting details on the tragedy continue to emerge.
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.