The social, political, and religious causes and characteristics of modern terrorism have become the object of heightened political attention and the subject for heated academic discussions. No country in the world seems to have a ready- made recipe for guaranteeing success in dealing with mass hostage crises. The ‘softer’ the targets of large-scale hostage operations, the more politically and morally sensitive and the more complicated the task of resolving a crisis becomes.
These concerns were certainly on the minds of many of the world’s political leaders and security professionals at the time and in the aftermath of the Beslan tragedy, Russia’ most severe hostage crisis thus far. There is little doubt that what happened in Beslan was, in many ways, a worst-case scenario raising endless political, tactical, and ethical questions. The ability of the radical militants not only to proceed with attacks against civilians in the North Caucasus region and to mount series of deadly terrorist acts outside of the region, but to increase terrorist activity to the unprecedented level of Beslan indicates that the Russian state in general and security agencies in particular face grave problems in maintaining law and order and combating terrorism. There was no shortage of harsh foreign and domestic critiques of the handling of the Beslan crisis in Russia. While some of these assessments did contain constructive criticism, many inappropriate attempts were also made to exploit the tragedy for the sake of political and ideological goals. The broader political and security measures announced or undertaken by the federal authorities in the aftermath of the crisis raised even more questions. […]