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Gunmen Plant Bombs in Crowded Moscow Theater - 2002-10-23


Gunmen who stormed a Moscow theater and took hostage an audience of about 700 people have reportedly planted bombs in the building.

The Interfax news agency says gunmen began to mine the building after releasing all children and non-Russians in the audience, including Muslims.

Freed hostages say the gunmen have also strapped explosives to their bodies and are threatening to blow up the theater if police storm the building.

One freed hostage said some of the gunmen jumped on the stage, shouting "We are Chechens, we are not hiding it." The gunmen are said to be demanding an end to the war in Chechnya.

Russian special forces have converged on the theater and have sealed off the area. All police officers in Moscow were ordered to immediately report for duty.

The gunmen stormed into the theater late Wednesday during a performance of the popular musical comedy "Nord-Ost." They fired many shots into the air during the takeover. There are no reports of casualties.

The theater is a former Soviet-era factory converted into a Palace of Culture.

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