The Beslan terrorists
Even allowing for the difficulties of the situation, one of the things that was most striking — at least to the TV viewer — was the apparent amateurishness of the Russian ‘special’ forces. Compare that with the professionalism of the terrorists they were up against. Here’s a quote from today’s New York Times:
The attackers wore NATO-issued camouflage. They carried gas masks, compasses and first-aid kits. They communicated with hand-held radios, and brought along two sentry dogs, as expertly trained as the attackers themselves, the officials said. All suggested detailed planning, including surveillance and possibly rehearsals, the officials said.
“They knew the geography of the school grounds like their own backyard,” the chief spokesman for Russia’s Federal Security Service, Sergei N. Ignatchenko, said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “This allowed them to choose sniper positions and place booby-traps on all possible access routes.”
I suppose that, in a way, Beslan was Russia’s 9/11. I watched Channel 4’s drama-doc, The Hamburg Cell last week and was reminded of the difficulty of combatting people who are not only fanatically convinced about the rightness of their cause, but who are also good at planning, logistics, training and finance. My first reaction to 9/11 on the day of the attack was to assume that it must have been the result of state planning — that it was too complex for mere terrorists to pull off. How wrong can you be?