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Bush: Russian siege ‘a grim reminder’

President George Bush on Friday offered condolences to victims of a bloody siege at a school in southern Russia, calling it a "grim reminder" of the lengths to which terrorists will go.
/ Source: news services

Speaking on the campaign trail on Thursday, President Bush extended condolences to Russian victims of a hostage crisis and said it was “another grim reminder” of the lengths to which terrorists will go.

“Hundreds of agonized parents are worried about the fate of their children,” he said, of the situation at a school in the southern Russian city of Beslan. Russian forces on Friday stormed the school where separatist rebels were holding hundreds of hostages. Scores of people have died and, according to Russian authorities, the toll may be much higher. The standoff continued between remaining militants, who still have an unknown number of captives, including children.

The president, who rarely departs from his scripted stump speech to address current events, condemned the siege during a re-election rally in Wisconsin. However, the news meshed easily into his campaign's emphasis on the war against terrorism.

"This is yet another grim reminder of the lengths to which terrorists will go to threaten the civilized world," said Bush. "We mourn the innocent lives that have been lost, we stand with the people of Russia, we send them our prayers in this terrible situation."

President Bush was briefed on developments in Russia Friday morning before a re-election rally at an earlier stop in Pennsylvania. He did not talk about the Russian terrorism during that speech.

Earlier, White House spokesman Scott McClellan branded the hostage standoff "barbaric" and "despicable" and said responsibility for lost lives rests with the terrorists.

The administration has been critical of Russia's bloody attempt to put down a separatist rebellion in Chechnya. But McClellan says there can be no justification for the hostage-taking and killing.