The first major strike came in February, when a bomb ripped through a Moscow subway train car, killing 39 and injuring at least 120. The rest came later in a ghoulish bundle, wrapped around the Aug. 28 presidential election in Chechnya. Four days before polls opened, two planes crashed almost simultaneously, one outside Moscow and the other close to the Black Sea, apparently brought down by two female Chechen suicide bombers. Almost 100 died.
But the most horrifying attack targeted children and lasted an excruciating two days. Armed gunmen entered a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, and held 1,200 children, teachers, and parents hostage Sept. 1-3-refusing them food, water, and medicine. The terrified children stripped almost naked in the summer heat and resorted to drinking their own urine. The final showdown with security forces killed the attackers-believed to be from Chechnya and neighboring republic Ingushetia-and about 350 hostages. The terror may not end with Beslan, however. President Vladimir Putin has an increasingly hardened Islamic Chechen resistance on his hands, one he has vowed to crush even at the expense of nonviolent separatists. The surviving children, meanwhile, suffer deep psychological scars.