Skip to comments.Men Hold Moscow Audience Hostage [Reports of 1000 Hostages]
Posted on 10/23/2002 11:12:47 AM PDT by McGruff
MOSCOW (AP) Armed men entered a Moscow theater Wednesday and took the audience hostage, the Federal Security Service said.
The theater was holding a performance of the musical Nord-Ost, one of the Russian capital's most popular productions.
The Interfax news agency said one of its reporters was inside the theater at the time of the raid. She told them in a telephone call that the men had fired into the air and were preventing the audience from leaving, the agency said.
Police units were on their way to the scene.
By JIM HEINTZ, Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW (AP) - Armed men entered a Moscow theater Wednesday and took the audience hostage, the Federal Security Service said.
The theater which Russian media said had 700 people inside was staging a performance of the musical "Nord-Ost," one of the Russian capital's most popular productions. The number of people inside could not be immediately confirmed.
The Interfax news agency said one of its reporters was inside the theater at the time of the raid. She told them by telephone that the armed men fired into the air and would not let the audience leave.
Interfax said its reporter believed there were about 20 men in the group, and also quoted unidentified law enforcement sources as saying the same. Interfax said some children had been allowed to leave the theater.
Police units and an Alpha special forces unit went to the scene and sealed off the area in the freezing, wet weather.
Located in southeastern Moscow in a working class neighborhood, the musical is based on Veniamin Kaverin's novel "Two Captains." The romantic novel recounts the story of two students and their different destinies during the Soviet times.
According to the theater's Web site, more than 350,000 people have seen the production since it opened.
Humor is important in any foxhole; it is the best antidote against despair. And it has always been thus.
Crappy writing. The musical is located in SE Moscow? Or the theatre? And no mention of Muslims being let go...I'll trust the BBC report on this one.
If it becomes clear that the Moscow assailants are holding out for a "No" vote from Russia in the Security Council, and this situation comes to a bad end (a la Bali), then I would not be surprised to see Russian long-range bombers with devastating payloads playing an active role in Iraq.
Two of my skating coaches are Russian immigrants. I am not hopeful of this situation ending in a good way.
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002. Page 1
Georgia Gives Arab Militants To U.S.
By Peter Baker
The Washington Post
Special forces in Georgia have captured 15 Arab militants linked to al-Qaida in recent weeks and turned them over to the United States, Georgian officials said.
Georgian authorities seized the men during a series of raids in the lawless Pankisi Gorge, where U.S. intelligence agencies have said a small al-Qaida cell operated in recent years alongside hundreds of Chechen separatists waging war against Russian forces across the border to the north.
"There were several Arabs who were detained and extradited to the United States and the investigation continued in the United States," Kakha Imnadze, press secretary for President Eduard Shevardnadze, said by telephone from Tbilisi on Monday. "It turned out some of them had connections [to al-Qaida], or probably all of them. Pankisi is not a tourist attraction."
Two other Georgian officials, speaking from Tbilisi on condition that they not be identified, confirmed Monday that the operations had succeeded in hunting down 15 Arab militants with suspected links to al-Qaida, as first reported by Time magazine. Georgian Security Minster Valery Khaburzania would not discuss the operations at a briefing Monday.
Among the militants caught and transferred to U.S. custody, according to the Time report confirmed by Georgian officials, was Saif al Islam el Masry, identified by testimony in a U.S. court last year as a member of the al-Qaida military committee.
In Washington, a knowledgeable U.S. administration official disputed the assertion that Saif al Islam had been apprehended.
The capture of reported al-Qaida operatives could provide support for U.S. assertions that the terrorist network's tentacles reached into Georgia. Washington dispatched Green Berets to Georgia earlier this year to train local troops how to fight Islamic extremists within their borders.
The Georgian raids in Pankisi came in response to U.S. and Russian pressure to clean out the gorge, where Chechen and Arab fighters had taken refuge since 1999. Some former Shevardnadze advisers have said in previous interviews that the Chechens enjoyed the protection of senior government officials, presumably in exchange for money.
Shevardnadze dispatched troops to Pankisi this summer in a highly promoted move intended to address Russian grievances. But unpublicized raids by Georgian special forces, launched with the help of U.S. intelligence, proved more successful in nabbing key figures in the Arab cell one or more at a time, according to Georgian officials.
"Once we know for sure there is somebody suspicious hiding in a house, we go in and grab that person," said Imnadze, the press secretary. "Should anybody resist, they'll be eliminated. That's the order." Imnadze said there had been some violent confrontations, but few "major casualties."
The special forces conducting the raids had U.S. training before the current $64 million train-and-equip program that began this summer, Imnadze said. The captured men, he said, had passports from Arab countries such as Morocco and Egypt as well as Europe, but the Georgians left it to the Americans to determine their relationship to al-Qaida.
U.S. intelligence agencies have estimated that as many as 100 al-Qaida militants joined hundreds of Chechen fighters who set up base in 1999 in Pankisi. While some of the Arabs worked on charitable projects and constructed a mosque, others built a militant operation that funneled in hundreds of thousands of dollars through couriers or wire transfers and kept in touch with other al-Qaida cells using satellite communications.
The militants split their time between helping the Chechens in their war against Russia and helping the international organization in its war against the United States, according to the Time account. One team was trying to obtain explosives to blow up a U.S. or Western installation in Russia, the Georgian investigation determined, while another six-man unit developed poisons for possible attacks against Western targets in Central Asia.
Saif al Islam, an Egyptian, was trained by the terrorist group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and was among a group of trusted al-Qaida operatives picked to go to Somalia to fight the U.S. military presence there in the early 1990s, according to testimony at a trial last year stemming from the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
His name surfaced this month in an indictment of a prominent Muslim charity director in the United States. Federal prosecutors in Illinois cited the fact that Saif al Islam had served as an officer of the Chechen branch of the Benevolence International Foundation as evidence of the group's ties to terrorism.
MOSCOW Armed men took a theater audience hostage in Moscow on Wednesday, the Federal Security Service said.
The Soviet Palace of Art was holding a performance of the musical Nord-Ost (North-East), one of the Russian capital's most popular productions.
The Interfax news agency said one of its reporters was inside the theater at the time of the raid, one of approximately 700 people inside. She told them in a telephone call that the men fired automatic weapons into the air and were preventing the audience from leaving, the agency said.
According to Izvestiya newspaper, the 20 or so gunmen, some of whom are armed with automatic weapons, had allowed all members of the audience to make phone calls, and children and Muslim audience members were allowed to leave.
Police units were on their way to the scene, as well as an Alpha special forces unit.
This doesn't sound hopeful. The hijackers allowed all their captives to make phone calls, too.
Well, no need to say anything further; that explains all.
For whatever that's worth.
Photo from Russian news site