Latest terrorism target for Chechen separatists. A school got occupied by a group of fighters, who held the children and staff (totalling over a thousand people) hostage for three days. On the third day, fighting broke out; Russian? news sources say there were over 150 dead, 600 wounded as a result - not counting the terrorists, which split into three groups - one remains besieged in the school at the time of writing, one escaped and was surrounded in a residential building elsewhere in the town, one attempted to escape by mingling with escaping hostages.
The news reports of how the fighting broke out are interesting to observe.
The [CNN timeline] cuts out just before the siege broke. At the time of writing, MoonShadow is unable to find an article which takes an unequivocal view of what happened, despite articles describing subsequent events being present.
The [BBC] report appears to equivocate - "Heavy gunfire and loud explosions were heard throughout the morning as Russian troops stormed the school". MoonShadow had to reread that before he realised that the troops were not necessarily being implied to have caused the explosions.
[English-language versions] of Russian news sources are very sparse, and say "13:26 Explosions and shooting at Russian school siege" - "..Explosions resounded and automatic fire broke out..", followed by "14:17 Soldiers fight rebels to end Russian school siege" - "..It was unclear what had triggered the battle".
Since this information seems to be missing from western news reports as of yet, using the [rambler.ru] news aggregator and the gazeta.ru aggregated ticker [archive], MoonShadow's attempt to get a coherent timeline for the start of military action; giving the times of publication of the earliest report, moscow time, for each event:
12:47 Evacuation of bodies from yard is agreed to (gazeta.ru ticker) 12:59 The evacuation of the bodies of those who died as the terrorists were occupying the school begins ("Novosti" via gazeta.ru, also newsru.com; picked up 13:07 by rambler, 13:13 strana.ru...) 13:04 Two powerful explosions from the direction of the school, followed by automatic gunfire from the direction of the school (gazeta.ru; newsru.com; picked up 13:16 by rambler; 13:19 RBK; [lenta.ru] gives the time of the explosions at 13:05; one of the explosions was audible in a live TV news broadcast; later reports state gunfire was from both sides) 13:19 Group of hostages runs out of the building (gazeta.ru; 13:26 strana.ru; 13:30 RBK.. 13:20 escaping hostages are being shot at (gazeta.ru); (13:32 newsru.com - are being led away by uniformed forces members; mentions soldiers carrying children away, says civilians are being evacuated from the area for safety's sake) 13:26 A third explosion (gazeta.ru) 13:29 Military helicopters scrambled (gazeta.ru) 13:30 Storm begins (gazeta.ru; picked up by rambler 13:58) 13:30 Reuters and CNN report wounded, picked up by gazeta.ru 13:37 13:33 Roof collapses (gazeta.ru) 13:58 gazeta.ru present article giving a version of events: hostages "utilise confusion to escape from building", forces open covering fire for them, terrorists interpret this as storm and blow up the sport hall, causing roof to cave in) 14:02 strana.ru [post their version] - terrorists start sporadically shooting at people recovering bodies, some hostages run out, terrorists switch to shooting at them, forces respond by providing covering fire. 14:17 15 injured taken to hospital (gazeta.ru)
(There's english-language summaries of what happened in the next hour around now, but if anyone's interested in a blow-by-blow reconstruction, I can get one together. I'm personally curious about the different sources' takes on what triggered the operation - note CNN and Reuters reports at least are not second-hand, they had their own reporters on the scene; there is a small but vocal faction that says the special forces had been planning a storm all along despite publically denying it - MoonShadow)
(PeterTaylor) Of course they were planning a storm. It's too late to start planning it when the terrorists start throwing the bodies of hostages out of the building. The question is whether they were planning to storm so early.
Update: [BBC] now has a (UK time) timeline that includes most of the above info in the above order, making the exercise redunant.