The general consensus of opinion in the international community is that the Russian authorities had no other option than to attack the theatre as they did, using immobilising gas to disarm the terrorists as fast as possible. Experts say the gas used was BZ, a nerve agent used by the USA in Vietnam.
The White House has stated that the ones to blame for the tragedy were the Chechen terrorists: “The tragedy was caused by the terrorists who took hostages and mined the building. They created desperate circumstances”, said White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer, who added that “Those who took hostages placed the people in danger”.
The White House spokesperson is backed up by most credible world press organs, given that while 114 hostages died through gas poisoning and one of gunshot wounds, around 700 were freed. The BBC states that “In fairness, the dangers had to be set against the possibility that the hostage-takers would carry out their threat to kill hundreds – an agonising calculation for the Russian authorities”. The question remains, what else could the authorities have done? The terrorists had firstly left themselves with little negotiating room, since they had stipulated a seven-day deadline for Moscow to move its troops out of Chechnya and had declared that they would start to shoot the hostages on Saturday morning.
Experts claim it is easier to deal with experienced, hardened terrorists than with inexperienced kids with a vendetta in their minds, which is what this group appears to have been. Early on Saturday morning, someone panicked and pulled a trigger, giving the message to those outside that the massacre had begun, leaving the authorities with the only decision they could have made, namely to attack the building swiftly and decisively, taking a calculated risk but trying to avoid carnage, which would have been the case if the terrorists had detonated their explosives.
Later, a great quantity of explosive material was found inside the building, which indicates that in fact the survival rate of the hostages is far higher than would have been the case had the ordnance been used.
However, one question remains to be answered, that of why the authorities had not organised teams of paramedics outside the theatre to inoculate the victims with the antidote immediately before they were taken to hospital. Possibly, there simply was not time.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru
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