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October 26, 2017
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15 years ago, militants seized a Moscow theater and staged one of the worst terrorist attacks in Russian history

Source: Meduza
October 26, 2017
October 26, 2017
Anton Denisov / TASS

On the evening of October 23, 2002, terrorists seized the crowded Dubrovka Theater in Moscow during a performance of the musical “Nord Ost,” taking captive more than 900 people, including actors, audience members, and some children. The terrorists mined the building with explosives and held the crowd hostage for several days. On the morning of October 26, police stormed the theater. Officials later called the operation a success, despite the fact that as many as 174 people died as a result of the raid. The majority of these casualties, moreover, died in hospitals, after being freed.

The capture of the Dubrovka Theater on October 23, 2002. Immediately after terrorists seized the building, a small number of hostages were able to escape by jumping out the windows.
Dmitry Azarov / Kommersant
An unknown man tries to enter the seized Dubrovka Theater on the night of October 24. Federal Security Service (FSB) agents cordoned off the building on the evening of October 23. According to the FSB, terrorists spent several months preparing their assault on the theater.
Anton Denisov / TASS
Police officers and FSB agents near the Dubrovka Theater building. According to the FSB, the terrorist group responsible for seizing the theater consisted of as many as 50 people. Forty people reportedly participated in the capture of the building, and about half of these individuals were women armed with suicide-bomb vests.
Konstantin Kizhelya / TASS
On the night of October 24, law enforcement opened negotiations with the terrorists, who up to this point had issued no demands. During these negotiations, the terrorists released several dozen hostages, including women, children, foreigners, and Muslims.
Dmitry Dukhanin / Kommersant
By the morning of October 24, terrorists had released 41 people, and had also shot several hostages. They demanded an end to Russian military activities in Chechnya and the withdrawal of federal troops from the region.
Dmitry Dukhanin / Kommersant
Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Right Forces political party, and State Duma deputy Joseph Kobzon in talks with the terrorists on October 24. During the day, Nemtsov, Kobzon, and other negotiators made several visits to the seized theater and negotiated the release of several hostages.
Sergey Mikheyev / Kommersant
Throughout October 24, most of the hostages are still held in the main auditorium. The terrorists won’t even give them water.
PhotoXPress
Marina Shkolnikova, one of the hostages, is released during negotiations on October 24. Another 39 captives are released on this day.
PhotoXPress
By midnight on October 25, the hostages receive medicines and hygiene products. The terrorists allow surgeon Leonid Roshal to deliver these items.
Anton Denisov / TASS
Friends and relatives of the hostages wait for their release in a square near the Dubrovka Theater. By the morning of October 25, the terrorists release another seven people.
Alexey Myakishev / Kommersant
By October 25, relatives start demanding more decisive action from the authorities. There’s a rally in the square near the theater. Meanwhile, the hostages are still being denied water. (Sign reads, “SAVE THEM.”)
Yuri Martyanov / Kommersant
Alexander Polyakov / Sputnik / Scanpix / LETA
(Sign reads, “Give them water and medicine. People are more important than politics.”)
Alexander Polyakov / Sputnik / Scanpix / LETA
Dmitry Dukhanin / Kommersant
By the evening of October 25, Russian officials decide to storm the theater. The operation will begin after 5 a.m. the next morning.
Fyodor Savintsev / TASS
Before raiding the building, police use the ventilation system to flood the theater with knockout gas, after which Interior Ministry forces and FSB agents storm in. Officials say the terrorists’ explosives necessitated the use of knockout gas. The exact makeup of the gas pumped into the theater is still unknown to this day.
Anton Denisov / TASS
Anton Denisov / TASS
Freed hostages were piled on the theater’s steps and administered first aid. Soon, the still unconscious individuals were loaded onto buses and sent to hospitals.
Dmitry Lovetsky / AP / Scanpix / LETA
By the morning, officials announced that 36 terrorists had been killed and the bodies of 67 dead hostages had been removed from the theater. At the same time, authorities started removing people immobilized by the knockout gas. Most of the victims were sent to Moscow hospital Number 13. (Sign reads, “Have you seen Evgeny Kochat? [If so, call] 911-2682.”)
Valery Melnikov / Kommersant
The injured hostages were taken to the hospital by bus. Many relatives had no idea if their loved ones were alive or where they were hospitalized.
Alexey Myakishev / Kommersant
It was later revealed that the gas didn’t work on everyone, and some terrorists continued to fire on police for 20 minutes after the theater was stormed. Some hostages also remained conscious for the entire raid and shootout.
Valery Melnikov / Kommersant
As a result of the terrorist attack, according to different reports, anywhere from 130 to 174 hostages were killed. The official hostage death count is 130 people, 119 of whom died in hospitals after being freed. (Sign reads, “Sasha S., Anya A., Zhenya Privalenko.”)
Valery Melnikov / Kommersant

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