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Swiss grieve hostage deaths in Russian school

Former hostages comfort each other after special forces sweep a school in Beslan, North Ossetia on Friday

(Keystone)

The hostage drama that left more than 350 dead and hundreds injured - many of them children - has prompted offers of support from Switzerland.

As aid agencies offered help to the victims, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey expressed her sorrow for the dead and concern for survivors.

The Swiss foreign ministry condemned the hostage-taking in a North Ossetia school on September 1. It also expressed concern about the high number of casualties.

"Switzerland always weighs the proportionality of the measures taken in a hostage situation," said ministry spokesman Ivo Sieber.

But he said the primary concern was "the safety and well-being of women and children who were released."

Swiss aid agencies quickly offered help. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) said it had offered humanitarian aid on Friday evening.

Spokesman Jean-Philippe Jutzi said the SDC would assess the needs after speaking to the Russian authorities.

Medical supplies from the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross have arrived at the Beslan hospital.

Explosives

The Russian secret service said their attack on the school was not planned, but was launched after the captors opened fire on fleeing hostages.

Chechen rebels reportedly fired on children who were trying to escape. North Ossetia borders Chechnya.

As the Russian troops swept the school, the rebels inside detonated explosives that caused the roof of the gymnasium to collapse, reports added.

The Russian authorities have now confirmed that more than 350 people - many of them children - died in during the siege.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Russian security forces took action after reports that hostage-takers were firing on those who tried to escape.
According to the Russian authorities, the hostage-taking has cost more than 320 lives and left hundreds wounded, many of them children.

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