Friday, October 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Theatre of terror: 700 held hostage
Chechen ultras release 180; give 7-day deadline

Moscow, October 24
Heavily armed Chechen ultras holding at least 700 persons hostage inside a Moscow theatre for the second day today set a seven-day deadline for Russia to end the military operations in Chechnya and completely pull out its troops, failing which they threatened to blow up the building.

With security forces taking up positions, the rebels released 180 hostages, including 24 children and two pregnant women.

As efforts were on to negotiate with the rebels, believed to be numbering 40-50 and armed with automatic weapons, grenades, belts with explosives attached, mines and canisters with gasoline, they demanded that foreign mediators, including Western diplomats and representatives of the Red Cross, be sent to talk to them, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said.

The Mayor said the terrorists had summoned foreign diplomats and promised to hand them over their respective nationals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin works in his office
Russian President Vladimir Putin works in his office in Moscow's Kremlin on Thursday. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the safety of hundreds of hostages was his main goal, and blamed the attack on "the same criminals who have sown death and destruction" in Chechnya. 

A woman and three girls leave a theatre accompanied by Russian officials after they been released by hijackers in Moscow on Thursday.
— Reuters photos

There are 62 foreign nationals among the hostages, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Malakhov told Rossia TV network. They include Dutch, Americans, Britons and Germans. No Indians are among them.

They, however, made it clear that no Russian should be among the representatives sent for the talks.

The rebels stormed the fully-packed Palace of Culture last night when Russia’s first multi-million dollar musical was on.

The ultras are led by Movsar Baravev, nephew of Chechen warlord Arbi Baravev, who was killed last year, pro-rebel website said, warning that if the war in Chechnya did not end within a week and Russian troops were not pulled out, they would blow up the building.

The rebels have also demanded a “large sum” of money, Moscow Police Department spokesman Vallery Gribakin said.

A Russian lawmaker involved in the handling of the Chechen hostage seizure said security forces would not storm the theatre unless the rebels began killing hostages.

On the other hand a policeman was shot dead by a soldier here today after a row at a checkpost in the capital in connection with the crisis, Interfax news agency said.

Meanwhile, heavily armed police and troops, including snipers, have surrounded the theatre just 4.5 km from the Kremlin and set up a massive security cordon around the area.

Moscow’s main tourist attraction Red Square has been sealed off for the tourists. The Russian Government today also deployed all available security forces.

In view of the situation, which may spill over into a hate campaign against non-Russians, the Indian Embassy here has closed Kendriya Vidyalaya till further notice and the embassy staff has been advised to take extra precautions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed international terrorist centres for the episode and cancelled trips to Germany and Portugal to take charge of the situation.

Meanwhile, Britain said today that it was sending a team of counter-terrorist experts to Moscow to help secure the safe release of hostages.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain was responding to its “paramount responsibility” to do what it could to ensure the safety of three Britons and the remaining hostages. PTI, AFP



Hostage shot, two escape

Medics pull the body of a dead hostage out of a Moscow theatre during a hostage taking incident on Thursday.

A picture taken from a video tape released by Arab satellite television al-Jazeera
A picture taken from a video tape released by Arab satellite television al-Jazeera station on Thusrday shows what it said was one of the male Chechen rebels seated in front of a laptop with the Koran by his side.  — Reuters photos

Moscow, October 24
Chechen gunmen shot dead a woman who tried to escape as they took over the building, a security official said today. “She was killed as she tried to escape during the takoever,’’ Mr Sergei Ignatchenko, a spokesman for the FSB security service, told NTV television.

Meanwhile, two young Russian women managed to escape today from the theatre, one of whom was wounded as they fled, the spokesman said. The two women, aged 18, climbed out of a window and escaped. One of them was injured after the Chechen rebels threw grenades at them. Later, three powerful explosions were heard outside the theatre.

Meanwhile, the hostages urged the Russian President in a television appeal to meet the demands of the terrorists.

DUBAI: Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera on Thursday showed tapes of Chechen rebels saying that they were ready to die for the independence of their homeland and to take the lives of “infidel’’ hostages seized in a Moscow theatre. Agencies


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