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Russian Hostages - 2002-10-30


It’s been a week of mourning in Russia after at least 120 people who died during a rescue mission to end a three-day hostage siege by Chechen rebels in Moscow. The rebels threatened to blow up the theater if Russian President Vladimir Putin did not end the war in Chechnya. Our Chris Simkins has more on the story and the questions that are being raised about the methods Russian security forces used to end the hostage standoff.

Remembering the victims in Moscow. On a national day of mourning relatives of hostage victims placed flowers outside the theater were they died.

NATURAL SOUND - gunfire

The hostage standoff came to a tragic end early Saturday when Russian special forces stormed the theater where Chechen rebels had been holding their captives for 58 hours. They entered the building after pumping gas into the theater. Russian officials say about 50 rebels were shot and killed, fearing they might set off bombs.

But the effects of the gas had unintended deadly consequences. According to the medical examiner the mysterious gas apparently killed all but three of the hostages who died.

Hundreds of people are still being treated for the effects of the gas and dozens are said to be in critical condition. The high death toll from the hostage siege has led to criticism of the way Russian authorities handled the crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the rescue operation and said Russia will not refrain from launching other attacks against terrorists.

NATURAL SOUND - President Putin

However, in a nationally broadcast speech, Mr. Putin indicated that all did not go as planned, asking Russians for forgiveness that security forces were not able to save everyone. But a former member of Russia’s special forces criticized his colleagues’ actions.

FORMER SPECIAL FORCES SOLDIER
“You have to be precise about how much of this gas you are using. I wasn’t there but it seems to me that the troops did not take enough precautions.”

While some criticized the raid others, such as political leaders, defended it as the only choice given the militants’ threat.

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