The Beslan massacre: 52 hours of horror

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The European Court of Human Rights identified 'serious failings' in Russia's handling of the siege, a ruling that Moscow deemed 'absolutely unacceptable'

The Beslan school massacre began on September 1, 2004 when Chechen rebels seized School Number One in the southern Russian city and took more than 1,100 people hostage.

It ended 52 hours later in chaotic firefights involving tank cannon grenade launchers, flame-throwers and automatic weapons that left more than 330 people dead, including 186 children.

The European Court of Human Rights identified Thursday "serious failings" in Russia's handling of the siege, a ruling that Moscow deemed "absolutely unacceptable."

Here is a recap of the bloody siege:

- Militants seize the school -

At 10:20 am, around 30 insurgents, some wearing explosive belts, seize the school in the Russian republic of North Ossetia at the start of the academic year. They lock hundreds of hostages into the gymnasium and open fire on police. One hostage taker and 11 other people are killed.

The insurgents threaten to blow up the building if security forces storm it, rig the gymnasium with explosives, and demand the release of Chechen rebels detained in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia.

Around 65 of the children manage to escape.

- Standoff -

On September 2, the president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, negotiates the release of a group of 15 children and 11 women.

Conditions deteriorate however, and just after midnight, two blasts rock the school. Rebels say they detonated two grenades in fear of an imminent attack.

- Storm breaks -

At 1:08 pm on September 3, two more explosions are heard, followed by sustained gunfire. Some hostages escape and some insurgents try to get away as well.

Russian special forces penetrate the school about an hour later and confusion reigns for several hours, with armed local residents taking part in the assault.

As conflicting casualty figures are issued on September 4, ITAR-TASS news agency identifies Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev as mastermind of the siege. He claims responsibility on September 17, and is reported killed by Russian special forces in July 2006.

A final casualty toll puts the deaths of civilians and security forces at more than 330, including 186 children, and the number of wounded at around 750.

Thirty one militants are killed, and one is arrested.