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Gunmen Hold 700 Hostages In Moscow


  1. Gunmen Hold 700 Hostages In Moscow

    From the International Desk
    United Press International




    MOSCOW, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- A group of 20 Muslim gunmen fired into the air during a performance of a musical at a Moscow theater Wednesday night and are holding the audience hostage, Russian law enforcement agencies said.

    Alexander Tsekalo, one of the show's producers, told the ORT television network that close to 1,000 people, including the actors and support staff, could be held hostage, while the official Itar-Tass news agency put the figure at 700.

    ORT reported that the gunmen appeared to be from the North Caucasus, possibly from Chechnya, and had told the audience, "We are engaged in a war."

    Other reports said the gunmen shouted that the war in Chechnya must end.

    The terrorists are wearing camouflage and are armed with automatic weapons. They seized the Moscow theater, a former Soviet House of Culture in southeast Moscow, where a performance of the musical Nord-Ost was being staged.

    Five actors locked up in a room by the gunmen managed to escape from the theater, television networks said.

    Security forces, including special anti-terrorist squads, and ambulances converged on the area.

    People among the audience, including a reporter for the Interfax news agency, were allowed to use their mobile telephones to call relatives.

    The terrorists have so far released several dozen children and have reportedly told Muslims in the audience they are free to leave the theater, but this information could not be confirmed.

    President Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov have been informed of the incident and are monitoring the situation, Interfax said.

    Russian forces are continuing to wage a war against separatists in Chechnya, a breakaway republic in the Northern Caucasus, and fears of terrorist acts against civilian targets in Russia have been on the rise in recent months.

    The separatist leaders have called for talks with the Kremlin and a withdrawal of Russian federal forces from Chechnya, but Moscow has ruled out any talks with Chechen rebel leaders.




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