Beslan Attacker Receives Life Sentence

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia – The sole surviving Beslan school hostage taker was sentenced to life in prison May 26.

Nurpashi Kulayev, 25, was convicted of participating with 31 other Chechen militants in the Sept.1, 2004 attack on a school in southern Russia in which 331 people, mostly children, were killed. Kulayev was found guilty of detonating a bomb during the attack, as well as shooting at children and other hostages trying to escape. He did not receive the death sentence because that punishment was suspended by Russia when it joined the Council of Europe 10 years ago.

During the trial, Kulayev claimed that he was forced to participate by other Chechens and that during most of the siege, he was hiding in the kitchen. He said he did not kill anyone.

Although many Beslan residents were upset that Kulayev did not receive the death penalty, others believe Kulayev is a scapegoat and that the actual attack planners were never apprehended. Some speculate that because the scene immediately after the three-day long siege was so chaotic, the terrorists could have blended in with the crowd and escaped. Additionally, they say the trial was one-sided, only focusing on the terrorists and not on the alleged errors made in securing the school to prevent the attack.

Residents also blame most of the deaths on the Russian forces who stormed the school possibly using grenades, tanks, flame throwers and other heavy weaponry in response to the attack. Many believe the government should have attempted to negotiate with the terrorists.

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