Russian tanks surround besieged theatre

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    ABC Online

    Russian troops and tanks have surrounded a packed theatre hall in Moscow, where suspected Chechen rebels are holding hundreds of people hostage.

    The gunmen claim to have mined the building and are demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

    Members of the audience have used mobile phones to dial out and describe how 20 to 30 armed men and women stormed the theatre in the middle of a performance.

    The rebels claim to have explosives strapped to their bodies and have warned they will start throwing grenades into the crowd if police try and storm the building.

    They have threatened to kill 10 people for every gunman who is hurt.

    They have demanded the presence of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and delivery of the chief of the pro-Moscow Government in Chechnya.

    Police hostage negotiators are now trying to establish a dialogue.

    Police say some 150 people comprising Georgians, foreigners and children, have been freed by the hostage-takers.

    Chechen separatists have since claimed responsibility for the seizure of the hostages on their Internet website.

    They claim the raid is being led by Movsar Barayev, the nephew of Chechen warlord Arbi Barayev, who was reportedly killed in June 2001.

    The site says the rebels have one demand of Russia: to stop the war in Chechnya and start a rapid withdrawal of Russian troops from the separatist republic.

    The official Chechen separatist leadership has disowned the hostage-taking.


    Just hope the Ruskies don't throw the baby out with the bath to speak

    Fig Jam

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