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Russia: Armed Men Seize Moscow Theater

Mosocw, 23 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A group of armed men declaring themselves to be Chechens took hundreds of people hostage in a Moscow theater tonight. A Moscow city police spokesman said the armed men were demanding an end to the war in Chechnya..

Russian news agencies cited a Chechen rebel website ( as saying the group of between 20 and 30 men was led by Movsar Baraev, the nephew of Chechen warlord Arbi Baraev, who Russian forces reportedly killed last year.

It was unclear exactly how many hostages were inside the theater but police said they believed their number was around 700. The armed men had earlier freed the children and some adult members of the audience.

Hostages inside the theater who managed to contact police by telephone said the armed men had been placing bombs in the building. Witnesses said all the gunmen had explosives strapped to their bodies.

Russian media reported that the gunmen were threatening to blow up the building if security forces tried to storm it. Antiterrorist units threw a cordon around the building.