A group of between 20 and 30 kamikaze Chechen terrorists stormed a packed Moscow theatre tonight, threatening to blow the building up unless their demands are met. It is feared that due to the fact that their demands are unrealistic, they will prefer to become martyrs, rather than prisoners.
At 22.57 MSK, the group of 20/30 terrorists entered the Palace of Culture theatre in Melnikov Street, South-East Moscow, which was showing the first Russian-produced musical, Nord-Ost, and started placing explosives around the perimeter of the building, according to eye-witnesses inside the theatre who were using their cellular phones. The terrorists then told the children and Moslems in the audience that they were free to go (these numbering around 150 people) and demanded an end to the war in Chechnya. They claim that if the police storm the building, they will detonate the explosives and for every one of their number killed, they will execute ten hostages.
Movladi Udugov, ideological leader of the Chechen terrorists, has claimed responsibility for this attack in an interview broadcast on Radio Echo.
The stalls hold around 700 people and the director of the theatre has stated that the total number in the audience is probably around 1,000, which would indicate around 850 still held by the terrorists, believed to be the kamikaze 29th Division led by the Chechen warlord, Arbi Baraev. Outside the theatre, teams of special forces have cordoned off the area.
In 1996, Russian forces abandoned Chechnya after a disastrous war which had lasted two years. They re-entered the republic in 1999 after Chechen terrorists invaded bordering territories and set off a series of attacks in Russia which killed at least 300 people.
Timofei BYELO PRAVDA.Ru
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