Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The massacre in Beslan

What can I say? You know it all already. A school in Beslan; 3 days; 1200 or so hostages, 338 dead (the latest number); hundreds more wounded; 32 terrorists, of which 31 are now dead and 1 in custody; the surviving terrorist claims that the whole thing was organized by Basayev, which is probably no surprise to anyone. Three terrorist acts in Russia the previous week: two planes blown up and a suicide bomber in Moscow.

The special forces claim that this time around, unlike in the theater siege in Moscow, the fuck-up wasn't theirs. Don't know whether to believe them or not. Getting hostages back from semisuicidal terrorists is a fairly tricky business. ("Semisuicidal" here means that some were apparently suicidal and some less so. I wonder which ones are getting their 72 virgins in the form of 90-year-old nuns from the Order of Eternal Virginity, and which ones in the form of 72 leather-clad muscular members of the club "Homo Soveticus". OTOH, they might come to like that latter one.)

Basayev is, entirely surprisingly to us all, I am sure, a rather observant adherent of a certain religion of peace. (There is a wide variety of Chechen separatists; some of them are also Islamic extremists and some aren't. Chechnya in general has a wide assortment of various armed bandits, from Russian troops to separatist Wahhabist extremists.) This time he has loved to death 338 people of which about 20-25% statistically must have been of the same religion, but that did not seem to bother him. He specializes in taking hostages in buildings, but has also organized an odd airplane hijacking and suicide bombing every once in a while. He has also organized an attack on the neighboring Dagestan in order to free his Moslem brothers there from Russians. The Dagestanis were so happy at the sight of their liberator that they started to fire what I am sure were greeting shots into the heads of Basayev's people and Basayev had to go back without liberating them. (A certain president who wanted to liberate Iraq probably should've read this story beforehand.)

To my rather pleasant surprise the overwhelming majority of the Islamic world, including most of the fundamentalists, have condemned the attack. Maybe there is still hope for the Islamic world, though probably not for Chechnya (for reasons mostly unrelated to Islam).

The "blame Israel first"-reward goes to Ali Abdullah, a Salafist scholar in Bahrain who claimed that Israel is behind this.

I wonder what Basayev hopes to accomplish? According to the surviving terrorist, he actually said "an all-out war in the Northern Caucasus", but there is already pretty much an all-out war in the Northern Caucasus. It might increase his popularity among Chechens if the Ossetians also start killing Chechens, which they are probably about to do, but if everyone starts really killing Chechens, Basayev might run out of the constituents to be popular among. Which would be sad, because most of them want nothing to do with Basayev and really don't want to be run out of.

Seriously, we are coming - probably have already come - to the point when the majority of Russian population wants Chechens exterminated, and I really hope we don't come to a point when they'd actually do it. The terrorists don't even enjoy any widespread support in Chechnya, but I don't think Russians will care. Don't think the terrorists will care either.

The town of Beslan, BTW, just lost 1% of its population. Imagine what it would feel like if 5000 people in Helsinki were murdered in one terrorist act. Or 80000 people in New York.

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