Flags flew at half-staff across Russia on the first day of national mourning for the victims of last week's school seizure by Muslim terrorists, and pressure mounted across the political spectrum for an independent investigation into the massacre. Meanwhile, Russians waited for clues to how President Vladimir Putin would respond to the crisis, the worst since he assumed office. At latest report, 335 children and adults from the school in Beslan, North Ossetia, were dead, along with 32 of their captors. More than 400 others were hospitalized. Almost everyone in Beslan knew someone who was a casualty of the attack (among them relatives, above, of a child and her mother who were shot to death by the terrorists). The Kremlin admitted to having lied about the scale of the standoff.
Terrorists exploded a car bomb on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq, killing seven US marines, the largest number of American casualties in one day since early May. Elsewhere, Iraqi authorities denied that a man taken into custody over the weekend is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the former deputy to Saddam Hussein. And a terrorist group holding two French journalists changed its main demand for their freedom to a $5 million ransom to be paid within 48 hours.
Failure to achieve a breakthrough on disputed Kashmir kept negotiators from India and Pakistan from reporting more than slight progress in peace talks Monday. But, "even modest progress is worthy of respect," said Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh. The sides agreed to "technical level" discussions on new rail and bus service between their countries, on communications links between their coast guards, and on proposals for "confidence-building measures" on nuclear and conventional weaponry. Later this month, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is due to meet India's new prime minister, Manmohan Singh, for the first time at the UN.
As many as 4,000 more people have been forced from their villages in Sudan's Darfur region in "recent days," despite ongoing efforts to halt ethnic cleansing there, a UN official said. But Radhia Achouri told journalists there's no indication that government troops were instigating the latest violence. Peace talks between the government and Darfur's non-Arab Muslim rebels are deadlocked, the sponsoring African Union reported Monday.
Opposition party leaders were exulting in the latest defeat for Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his Social Democrats in a state election in Germany. Voters in Saarland, angry at cuts in social programs, gave the rival Christian Democrats just under 48 percent of their ballots, compared with 30.8 percent for the Social Democrats, a 14-point drop for the latter since the last election, in 1999. The defeat was the latest in a series for Schröder, with another expected Sept. 19 in formerly communist East Germany. Social Democrats also were drubbed in June in balloting for seats in the European Parliament.