*****Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America’s Schools. By John Giduck; published by the Archangel Group, 303/215-0779 (phone), www.terror atbeslan.com (Web); 431 pages; $25.
On September 1, 2004, Chechen terrorists stormed a school in Beslan, Russia, and took about 1,300 children and adults hostage. Two days later, shooting broke out between the terrorists and Russian security forces. By the time the siege ended, at least 330 civilians were dead, more than half of them children.
Author John Giduck presents an excellent review and analysis of the attack. He provides diagrams of the school building that are crucial for understanding the difficulties faced by Russian forces, and his photos graphically illustrate the brutality of the attack.
As someone who trained with Russian special forces and was on the scene soon after the siege ended, Giduck speaks with authority. He was given access both to the school and to the soldiers on the scene. Unfortunately, due to the Russian blackout on information about the tragedy, Giduck can’t name sources without putting them in jeopardy.
The author’s lively writing style will keep readers going even during the historical sections. But the book offers more than a good read. Giduck derives lessons learned that can be applied in the United States or elsewhere. He considers the likelihood of a similar threat to U.S. schools and makes recommendations for administrators, security, and law enforcement.
Not everyone will agree with his threat assessment or his recommendations, though. For example, he says that an Islamic attack on a U.S. school is a matter of when, not if. But a reasonable argument might be made that the Islamist threat to Russian schools is much greater than it is to U.S. schools. Russia, after all, faces an internal terrorist threat from Chechens, while the United States faces no similar circumstance.
Whatever the threat level from Muslim terrorists, schools can, of course, face siege situations for other reasons. Giduck’s recommendations for law enforcement could serve as a checklist for how police departments should handle school sieges and hostage situations. And overall, this account could be instructive to school administrators and security personnel.
Reviewer: Lloyd F. Reese, CPP, CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), has worked for the U.S. government, a Fortune 50 company, and a consulting business. He was a member of the Terrorist Activities Subcommittee of the ASIS National Capital Chapter for 13 years, and he remains a member of ASIS International.