No Happy Ending to Moscow Theater Drama
Broadway theaters are tightening security to avoid a hostage situation like the one seen in Moscow last week. To ensure that these new security measures remain secure, the League of Theatres and Producers will not discuss specifics, saying only: "As we have since September 11, Broadway theaters continue to work closely with the New York City Police Department to ensure that our patrons can attend...in safety."
The siege of the Moscow theater began on Wednesday, October 23 at 9:10 pm (local time) when camouflage-clad gunmen rushed the stage during the second act of the popular musical Nord-Ost and announced to about 800 stunned audience members that no once could leave. The 30 gunmen plus about 20 accomplices who had been planted in the audience said that they were from Chechnya, a southern republic where the mostly Wahabi Muslim residents support independence from Russia. Apparently heavily fortified with explosives, the gunmen threatened to blow up the building and shoot their hostages if troops attempted to intervene.
The crisis ended at 6:30am on Saturday when soldiers rushed the theater, capturing four guerillas and killing the rest. Before making their move, the Russians pumped an unidentified gas into the building that created confusion, hallucinations, and unconsciousness among captors and captives alike. The gas was introduced into the building as the Chechens were just starting to watch a videotape of the musical they interrupted, the show's producer, Georgy Vasilyev, told The Moscow Times.
Because the guerillas were killed or captured before they were able to carry out their worst threats, the rescue mission was initially considered a success, but that feeling waned as authorities conceded that the gas proved lethal for nearly 15 percent of the hostages. By this afternoon, 117 audience members' deaths were attributed to inhaling the gas, which Russian authorities have so far refused to identify. An additional 400 of the former captives remained hospitalized, many in critical condition.
The guerrillas were known to have killed two hostages, as well as a man who entered the theater at 11:50pm Friday. The man, who wore bloody clothes, claimed to be the father of a captive and said that he had forced his way inside the building out of concern. When his son was not found in the theater, the gunmen accused the man of being an agent of the FSB (the former KGB) and shot him. No Americans were listed among the casualties.