(NYT) Forensic analysis of the remains of 31 militants who seized the public school in Beslan last month has determined that all of them were dependent on drugs, a senior law enforcement official said in a statement reported by Russian news agencies Sunday.
Nikolai Shepel, the deputy prosecutor general of Russia’s southern federal district, also said that blood tests had found very high levels of heroin and morphine among a majority of the attackers who died at the siege, “which indicates that they were long-term drug addicts and had been using drugs permanently while preparing for the terrorist attack,” according to the Interfax wire service.
“These conclusions help us look at the Beslan tragedy from a new angle,” he said.
In addition to the attackers, at least 344 people died in the seizure of the school on Sept. 1 and the battle that ended the siege two days later. Hundreds more were wounded.
As terror attacks have emanated in recent years from the war in Chechnya, many Russian law enforcement officials and politicians have said that those who plan the attacks use hard drugs to coerce suicide bombers, or to induce in the bombers a semi-alert state that assists bombers in fulfilling their grim assignments.
Pro-separatist Web sites have dismissed the claims as Russian propaganda.
In an interview last year with the newspaper Vremya Novestei, Akhmad Kadyrov, who later became the president of Chechnya, took this view: “Suicide bomber terrorists are people acting not of their own will. They are filled with various psychotropic drugs.” Kadyrov was killed in a bomb blast this year.
But such claims have typically been used to explain the condition of female bombers with tactically simple missions – carrying a bomb into a crowd and depressing a button to detonate it – and not to describe experienced guerrillas, who perform more complicated and long-running tasks.
The hostage takers in Beslan were said by survivors and Russian authorities alike to have demonstrated proficiency in several military skills, including scouting their target, swiftly rigging bombs into a network for detonation and organizing a defense against assault. Shepel said Sunday that some of them are now believed to have been suffering from drug withdrawal during the siege.
Russian government offices were closed Sunday, and the prosecutor’s office did not answer phone calls. Further details of Shepel’s statement and of the forensic analyses behind it were not available.