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Russia: Targeting of civilians condemned

The organisation is also warning that the response of the Russian authorities must be consistent with international standards and one that prioritises the safety of the hostages themselves.

Media reports say that up to 150 pupils, parents and teachers are being held hostage today by gunmen in the city of Beslan in north Ossetia, Russia.

The gunmen are reported to have threatened to blow up the school if it is stormed by police and troops. They are said to be demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya.

In separate incidents, at least nine people were killed and many were wounded in a suspected suicide bomb attack near a Moscow underground station on 31 August, and on 24 August 89 people were killed in explosions destroying two civilian airplanes.

A group, calling itself the Istambouli Brigades, claimed responsibility for both incidents. It threatened to continue operations “until the killings of our Muslim brothers in Chechnya ceases.

Amnesty International said:

“Hostage-taking is unacceptable in any circumstances and can never be justified. Those who commit such a crime are in clear breach of international humanitarian law, in particular Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and should be brought to justice.

“We are calling on those responsible to release the hostages immediately, unconditionally and unharmed.

“The Russian government has the duty to protect its citizens and to bring perpetrators of such violent acts to justice.

“We are calling on the authorities to ensure that any use of force and firearms is fully consistent with international standards and will not put in jeopardy the lives of the hostages.”

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