Rebels Hold People Hostage in Moscow Theater – 10/23/2002

History |


About 50 Chechen rebels stormed their way into a Moscow theater much to the surprise of the hundreds of people who were inside the establishment at that time. The up to 700 people who thought that they would be enjoying the sold-out performance ended up being held captive as hostages instead on October 23, 2002 by the rebels.

The cast of the musical “Nord Ost” was set for their second act at the Moscow Ball-Bearing Plant’s Palace of Culture when suddenly, an armed man from out of nowhere started firing his machine gun in the air. When people thought that it could not get any worse, other terrorists came rushing into the scene, explosives were strapped to their bodies, an obvious threat that that they were not afraid to die right then and there. They soon identified themselves as belonging to the Chechen Army. They only had but one demand – Russian military forces ought to back out and stay away from Chechnya, a war-devastated area in the northern part of Caucasus Mountains.

The predominantly Muslim populated country of Chechnya has long been crying out for its independence. The country clashed with Russian forces in a two-year period war when the latter tried to regain control over the place. The war ended in 1996 but the Russians eventually returned three years later after suspecting the Chechens as being responsible for the series of bombing incidents that transpired in the Russian territory. President Vladimir Putin was elected in year 2000 right after promising his people that he will deal with the Chechens accordingly and will not give the “terrorists” room for negotiation.

It was a grueling 57 hours for all of those who were trapped inside the Palace of Culture. To add to their horror, two hostages ended up being killed. The Russian special forces initiated their attack against the terrorists is the morning of October 26th. The Russians reportedly pumped a powerful narcotic in the building before breaking into the walls and roof of the theater. This let them gain the upper hand – nearly all of the terrorists and hostages were rendered unconscious by the narcotic gas. Most of the rebels were killed by the Russian forces. One hundred twenty of the hostages ran out of luck and died during the raid. Some thought that the security forces went overboard when they opted to use the dangerous gas. The security forces defended their decision, saying that the surprise attack became necessary because this was the only way that they could have disarmed the rebels while purposefully taking into account that they also needed to detonate the explosives.

The theater crisis marked the beginning of the bloody feud between the two countries. Putin’s government held Chechnya responsible for torture, kidnapping, and other grueling crimes. The Chechen rebels on the other hand tried their best to overpower the Russians in any way they can, instigating terrorist attacks whenever they could. The rebels were accused of initiating a suicide bombing a Moscow subway in February 2004 as well as the major hostage crisis in a Beslan school on September that same year.

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