Monday, September 06, 2004

Eye-witness account from Beslan, Russia

The following news account about Beslan is from the Russian Ministries web site (

Pastor Sergey Totiev, a local pastor in the Beslan area, whose children were held as hostages in the school, spoke by phone today to Sergey Rakhuba, vice president of Russian Ministries. Sergey Rakhuba also spoke with Pastor Yuri Sipko, the president of the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists, who is also in Beslan and was an eyewitness to yesterday’s events. Here is a summary of their discussions.

Pastor Totiev confirmed that Anya, his 8-year-old daughter, was killed. Azum, one of his sons, is being treated in hospital where doctors are trying to preserve vision in both of his eyes. His niece, Madina, has left the hospital and returned to her home. She has not spoken and is in a state of shock. Sergey and his brother Taymuraz had 8 children in the school during the ordeal. The five other children remain missing. Many children were sent to a larger hospital in Vladikavkaz. But the area surrounding Beslan is now sealed off, so he is unable to travel to that city and search for the remaining children in his family.

Pastor Totiev said that he fears that the number of dead may be as high as 500, but no one yet knows. Some of the bodies will be difficult to identify because of the explosions that were set off at the school. He estimates that 60 percent of the dead will be children.

The hostage-takers seemed to be highly skilled, and the action appeared to be a well-planned and carefully orchestrated event, with many explosives stored at the school during a time of remodeling during the summer. There are still an estimated 50 kg. of unused explosives at the school site that, if detonated, could blow up the entire neighborhood. Pastor Totiev reports that 27 hostage-takers were killed, three are in custody, and four remain at large. Nine of the hostage-takers appeared to be neither Chechen, Russian or Ossettian, but of Arab descent.

Pastor Totiev wants to express heartfelt gratitude for people around the world who have prayed for him, his brother, their children and all the people who are directly affected by this terror.

Yuri Sipko, the president of the Evangelical Christian-Baptist of Russia, journeyed to Beslan, and was present as bodies were being pulled from the debris. He reports that it will be impossible to identify many children and adults. He is inviting all Baptist churches in Russia not just to pray, but to also financially support the community in Beslan irregardless of religious affiliation because of the many financial needs—for caring for the injured, burying those who died, and helping the community at large recover from this tragedy.

Russian Ministries has established a Terror Relief Fund to help the community in Beslan with spiritual and physical needs. You may give online, call toll-free 1-888-462-7639, or mail your gift designated for Terror Relief Fund, to Russian Ministries, P.O. Box 496, Wheaton, IL 60189.

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