"Russian troops stormed a school Friday in a chaotic battle to free hundreds of parents, teachers and children who had been held hostage for two days by Chechen separatists. Naked and screaming children ran for safety amid machinegun fire and explosions while attack helicopters clattered overhead. The Tass and Interfax news agencies spoke of over 300 wounded, mostly children. Rebels fled with soldiers in pursuit. Witnesses at the scene in Beslan, in the North Ossetia region near Chechnya, saw several bodies on stretchers and Russian news agencies said at least seven people had been dead on arrival at hospital. Half- or fully naked children gulped from bottles of water after two days without drink in a stiflingly hot and crowded school. Some lay on stretchers. There was no definite toll, although Tass quoted an unidentified official as saying most of the hostages were alive."
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