terror attack

School Terror Attack at Beslan and Why We Could be Next

Are we ready for a school terror attack?

Let me begin with a warning. This is heavy stuff here. By reading this article you will feel several emotions, all at the same time.

I suggest you read it once and then go back to your routine driven life, filled with rainbows and unicorns, where bad things only happen to other people. If that is not you, come back in a few days and read it again and ask.

Are we really ready for something like this?

I am committing  one of the cardinal sins of blogging with this article as parts are a bit academic.

However, my respect for the reader has forced me to deviate from the status quo and deliver this information with a slightly different delivery. Also, I apologize, in advance, if this article is a bit lengthy.

September 1, 2004, started as any other first day of school for the young children attending opening day ceremonies at Beslan Middle School in Russia.

As tradition, the students would put on their best as the opening day was a celebration to embrace the hope of a new school year. Many parents would also attend the opening ceremonies.

Called Knowledge Day or First Bell, parents would see their children off with bright beginnings and a general sense of hope and renewal as this brand new school year commenced.

Shortly after 9:00 am, a group of Islamic Chechen Terrorists arrived in a several vehicles and set in motion one of the worst hostage events the modern world has ever known.

That terrible, terrible day

The first day of school in the Russian culture resembles that of a festival with parents, to include other extended family members of students, attending the opening of a new school year.

The middle school at Beslan was no different with everyone dressed in formal attire and displaying the exuberance of a new beginning and hope for each student.

This hope was interrupted when close to three dozen Chechen Terrorists converged on the school property, shooting their weapons into the ground and the air. At first, parents and students alike thought that it was just an exercise being conducted by Russian Commandos.

According to other after action reports, many just stood frozen in disbelief as the Terrorists began moving the students and other family members into the school’s gymnasium.

Tactical considerations were then acted out by the Terrorists as they immediately set alive the gym with explosives.

It was also observed that two females were among the attackers who were adorned in traditional Arabic garb and fitted with explosives.

Almost immediately two males were executed in front of the horrified hostages and then drug through the gymnasium for all to see.

Additionally, 21 males were collected among the hostages during the first several minutes of the siege and taken to the second floor of the school and then summarily executed.

This tactic was employed to gain immediate dominance over the hostages and instill abject fear over the captives. In total, there were close to 1,200 hostages taken during the take-over, most being women and children.

Once the initial siege was complete, the terrorists humiliated and intimidated the school children and employed psychological games to further destroy the will of the adults in the takeover.

After building this psychological wall around the hostages, the Terrorists then began to fortify their positions around the school, waiting for a response from Russian Police or Military.

Here is a short video taken during the first hours of the siege at the Beslan School.

What is an Islamic Chechen terrorist?

Your worst nightmare.

During the mid 1990’s, an extreme form of Islam permeated Chechnya called Wahhabism. This was a departure from the more tolerant Sunni form of Islam.

The Second Chechen War saw Vladimir Putin dispatch Russian troops once again to quell and assume control over what he referred Chechnya to as a “a vast terrorist camp”.

It became clear to Putin that the vacuum of Chechnya was being filled by ever increasing Muslim extremists and that re-taking control of Chechnya was seen as curbing the growth and isolating the international terrorism that was occurring there.

It is difficult for Westerners to understand the mind of terrorists, especially those as brutal as the Chechens. There are certain human limits that most, even hardened Islamic extremist, will not cross over into.

This is not the case for those from the North Caucus region, especially Chechens.

Chechens have a long history of working to overcome those human limits for things like torture and the dismembering of adults and infants.

Chechen children are exposed to the beheading and torture of captives at an early age and are often participants in macabre celebrations like dancing with the severed heads of their victims.

It is in this knowledge and understanding of the psychological make-up of this group that will prepare those when trying to make sense of the tragedy at Beslan.

The aftermath  

The siege would last for another two days before elite Russian Operatives would storm the school.

In the end, over 400 were killed on both sides to include 186 children. Aside from the loss of life, the deepest wound from this terror attack was psychological.

The theatre siege at Nord-Ost in Moscow was terrible enough but it is accepted that there is no comparison to the horror or grief of Beslan.  The siege itself has been critiqued and examined. The after action report should be required reading for every military commander and front line first responders.

When combating something so ruthless, so devoid of human empathy as these Terrorists displayed during the attack on Beslan, we cannot idly sit back.

We must take notice of lessons learned, even if it takes us to the very place we would rather not think of.

Things to consider

In an attempt to prepare Americans for the threat of a terrorist attack like the one in Beslan, the first order of the day is for all of us to shed the veil of civility and luxury in which we carry out our lives.

All of us; parents, school officials, military planners and law enforcement commanders must be brutally honest with ourselves and ask the tough questions. Are we tactically ready for such an event?

Could we, in the midst of dealing with such fear and paralyzing emotion, be able to carry out the necessary actions to stop or impede such an event from occurring?

When we have properly prepared ourselves mentally and psychologically for an attack of this nature we can then move to taking the necessary steps required to prevent such an attack.

It has been offered that every school be outfitted with a minimum of at least one armed security guard for every school. This is the case for most states that now have laws directing each high school to have a full time school resource police officer assigned as a primary duty to that school.

Sadly, this is not the case for most of our elementary schools.


Are they not the most vulnerable of all of us?

Assigning an individual officer to each school however would do nothing to stop an attack like the one that occurred at Beslan.

What can Americans learn from this tragedy

The attacks on 9/11 caught Americans off-guard. It also showed us how vulnerable and susceptible we can be to those willing to do the unthinkable on our very soil.

The unthinkable occurred at the Beslan School in 2004.

For the United States to think we are immune to such atrocities is both arrogant and reckless.

Unfortunately, there are no lengths or limits that Radical Islamic Extremist Terror groups will go to inflict fear and dread upon our American ideals.

A Columbine or Sandy Hook school shooting, as terrible and brutal as both were, will pale in comparison if a Beslan Style attack were to occur at an elementary school within the United States.

It is a topic that most would rather not explore or discuss.

I don’t like to think about it either.

But we must!

How important is this issue to you? Do you think that we should direct more resources in the prevention of such an attack like the one at Beslan occurring here?

I value the thoughts and opinions of all of my readers. Please, if you agree or disagree with this article, please let your voice be heard and engage either on social media or the comment section at the end.

Note: Just yesterday, I learned that one of Osama Bin Laden’s sons has vowed to avenge his fathers death and is suspected of being groomed as the next leader of Al Qaeda.

Just sayin.

I encourage you to consider purchasing the following book to learn more about the Beslan School Attack and to also foster further discussion among your peers.


A 23-year veteran police officer, Bart spent time as a patrolmen and a violent crimes detective (specialized in strategic intelligence and research analysis). Aside from this experience in high profile case investigations, he has received training from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in Advanced Intelligence Analysis. Bart also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Strategic Intelligence (Magna Cum Laude) from Liberty University. As a father of four, husband and law enforcement officer, he wants to share his knowledge on safety with you. Bart is also a contributing writer for Law Enforcement Today.

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