New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers has a lengthy — and chilling — narrative on the terrorist attack on Beslan, Russia, that began on September 1, 2004. Chechen separatists took over School Number One, filled with children and parents on the first day of the academic year, and wired the place with bombs. A rescue attempt by Russian security forces three days later turned into a pitched battle and when it was over, 331 people were dead — including 186 children.

You can read an excerpt of the Chivers story here and view a video taken by terrorists during the siege. It is a terrible thing to see so many innocents gathered together in what was, for many of them, the last few hours of their lives.

Vladimir Bobrovnikov, an analyst with the Moscow Institute for Oriental Studies, said the Beslan case “demonstrates that, in Russia, radical nationalist groups use religious identification and adopt the Islamic principle of martyrdom to meet their political ends.” The Beslan attack, he explained, was carried out by al-Riyad al-Salihin group which appeals mostly to Caucasian Muslim populations such as Chechens, Ingushes, and Daghestanis. “By choosing their victims to be from among the Russian Orthodox Ossetians they effectively positioned themselves as ‘Muslims’ in contrast to the captured ‘infidel’ civilians and Russian troops,” Bobrovnikov wrote. “A survivor remembered that ‘…one of the gunmen was reading the Quran constantly.’”

The Itar-Tass News Agency reported today that a local court pronounced Nurpashi Kulayev — the only surviving terrorist from the Beslan attack — guilty of all charges.