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Surviving hostage details escape
VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- In a terrifying videotape, 10-year-old Georgy Farniyev sat near a bomb, his hands behind his head and his face a mask of misery. He looked certain to die, but survived through luck, self-possession beyond his years and enough grit to pull shrapnel out of his own arm.
On Thursday, Georgy told of his ordeal from the back of an ambulance in the North Ossetian capital before taking a flight to Moscow, where he will be treated for his wounds.
Only last week, Georgy was lined up with classmates and their parents at School No. 1 in his hometown of Beslan, ready for the first day of school. Then gunmen began shooting in the air, herding some 1,200 children and adults into the gymnasium and starting a siege that would end with 326 dead.
Georgy was with his aunt, Irina, and 6-year-old cousin, Elbrus. Both also survived with injuries.
"They told us to 'sit tight and if you scream we will kill 20 children.' One terrorist had 20 children that were killed, and because of that they came to kill us," Georgy said.
There was not much water to drink, and only a few people were allowed to go to the bathroom during the two-day siege, Georgy said.
"Children, women and even men were fainting. They were not giving us water," said Georgy, who appeared emotionally numb -- his thoughts and words swerving back and forth in time as he remembered his ordeal.
Some of the terrorists were bearded, but one was clean-shaven, Georgy said. At least two of the militants were women, and Georgy said they wore what looked like money pouches -- "but there was no money, only explosives."
After the siege began Sept. 1, the militants placed bombs around the gym floor and in the basketball hoops.
On the second day of the standoff, Georgy said the militants killed some adults and one girl -- shooting one victim in front of the hostages in the gym, but taking others away and killing them elsewhere.
On the videotape, apparently taken by the militants, Georgy sat close to the side of the gym where some of the explosives were concentrated. Other survivors said he likely would have died there -- the bombs went off in the chaos that ended the standoff on Sept. 3.
Georgy said he had been directly on a square-shaped explosive.
"One of the mines was right under us," he said. "There were a lot of explosives, grenades, bombs."
But at one point Georgy was told to move, and it apparently saved his life.
When the explosions began, Georgy rushed from the gym to a nearby room, then to a cafeteria where he was hit by shrapnel in his right knee and upper left arm. He limped into the kitchen and hid in a closet.
Georgy pulled the shrapnel from his arm and cleaned it with water, but was unable to remove the shrapnel from his knee. He said he found a telephone and tried to call for help, but it was broken.
A soldier later approached his hiding place and asked, "Are there any more Chechens?"
"I said 'No,"' Georgy said. Someone then took his hand, and he was passed out a window and into a vehicle to be taken to safety.