At least 90 hostages and 50 Chechen rebels holding them in a Moscow theater have been killed as Russian special forces troops ended the rebel standoff by storming the building.
About 700 hostages were freed, although hundreds were hospitalized suffering from the effects of a gas pumped into the theater to incapacitate the rebels. Russian officials confirmed the use of gas, but did not give details.
Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilyev said authorities have detained about 30 people identified as accomplices of the separatist Chechen rebels who forced their way into the theater during a performance on Wednesday armed with guns and explosives.
The rebels had threatened to kill their hostages unless President Vladimir Putin declared the separatist war in Chechnya over and began withdrawing Russian troops by sunrise today (Saturday).
The interior ministry said the decision to go into the building was made early Saturday after the rebels started carrying out their threat to kill the hostages.
Diplomats said they were told all of the approximately 75 foreign hostages were saved.
Russian television showed President Vladimir Putin visiting freed hostages in the hospital.