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Giving Up Saddam

From October 23 to October 26, 2002, all of Russia—and much of the world—was focused on the Dubrovka theater complex in Moscow.  A band of Chechen terrorists had seized the complex during a performance of the popular musical Nord Ost, holding a group of about 750 hostages captive as the band’s leader, Movsar Barayev, nephew of a Chechen field commander killed by Russian forces, demanded that President Vladimir Putin order the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya.  The terrorists initially released some hostages, while a series of Russian luminaries attempted to negotiate the release of others, eventually persuading the captors to allow doctors into the theater to treat the ailing and the elderly.  Meanwhile, official sources claimed that the terrorists had threatened to begin shooting the hostages on the morning of the 26th if the authorities did not respond to their demands.

The crisis ended in the deadly storming of the theater by Russian Special Forces on the 26th and the death of the terrorists—as well as of at least 128 hostages, who fell victim to the “knockout gas” used to disable the terrorists before the assault.  Kremlin spokesmen quickly tied the Moscow crisis to a series of recent terrorist acts around the world, claiming, once again, that the war in the breakaway Chechen republic was part of the global “War on Terror” that U.S. President...

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