Nord-Ost siege remembered 7 years on

Russian Federation, Moscow : Russian special forces storm early 26 October 2002 the theater building in Moscow, where Chechen separatists were holding hostages since 23 October. AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov.
Friday marks the 7th anniversary of a terrorist attack in Moscow which claimed the lives of 130 hostages.

On October 23, 2002 a group of heavily-armed masked male and female militants seized a Moscow theatre during a performance of Nord-Ost, Russia's first homemade big-budget musical, being performed to a full house. Some 900 people were held captive.

Terrorists mined all entrances to the theatrical complex including attic and basement and demanded the disengagement of federal troops from the Russian Republic of Chechnya.

Female terrorists had explosives attached to their bodies. They were distributed among the audience and threatened to set off a chain of explosions that would kill the entire audience and cast if any attempt was made to free the hostages.

Police sealed of the theatre and three days of painful negotiations followed.

The terrorists forced the hostages to use the orchestra pit instead of a toilet. Many suffered from dehydration or illness, and several were shot.

The authorities refused give in to the terrorists' demands and 57 hours after the beginning of the siege, at 6 am on October 26, an operation to release the hostages began.

On October 26, 2002, Special Forces pumped an unidentified gas into the building to incapacitate the terrorists and stormed the theatre. The gas gave the would-be bombers no chance to detonate their explosives

All 41 militants were terminated in the operation within minutes, despite many of them wearing gas masks and therefore gas did not knock them out. Not a single casualty was registered among those officers participating in the assault.

Almost all of the hostages were alive after all the terrorists had been eliminated. But many of the hostages, weakened from dehydration and nervous exhaustion, died shortly afterwards from asphyxiation – including some who choked on their own vomit – either in the courtyard outside the theatre or on their way to hospital.

The lives of one hundred and thirty hostages were lost.

There were ten children among the victims, and 69 more children were orphaned by the siege.