A Moscow theater in which audience members and actors had been held captive by Chechen guerillas since Wednesday evening was stormed and taken by Russian special forces at dawn on Friday, October 25. The leader of the terrorists, Movsar Barayev, was killed in the siege.

More than 700 hostages were reportedly freed. The total number of dead among the rebels and the captives was reported differently by various news organizations. At least three hostages had been reported murdered by the guerillas before the storming of the theater began.

The Russian forces pumped the theater full of tear gas and then stormed it after gunfire and explosions were heard inside the building. According to the news agency Itar-Tass, the theater was taken back from the rebels after an hour of fighting.

Barayev was the leader of the group that took control of the theater on Wednesday during a performance of the popular Russian musical Nord-Ost. The guerillas had threatened to begin killing the captives if their demands for Russian president Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from Chechnya were not met; they also threatened to blow up the building if it was stormed.

Putin has linked the conflict in Chechnya to the global war on terrorism that began in earnest following the 9/11/01 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. In response to the Moscow theater crisis, security at Broadway theaters has reportedly been beefed up.