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Rpt.: Rebels Start Killing Hostages

October 26, 2002

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MOSCOW (AP) _ Chechen rebels holding hundreds of captives have started killing hostages, Russian news agencies reported early Saturday after a series of explosions and gunfire were heard in the area.

A group of soldiers with guns drawn ran toward a Moscow theater and more explosions and heavy gunfire were heard as a couple of people were seen running from the theater.

Special forces troops were sent to help save the captives, Federal Security Service spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko said, according to Interfax news agency.

Two women have been freed and were inside the command center handling the crisis, he said.

Minutes earlier, a Russian official said that two hostages had been killed and two wounded. He did not say who had killed them.

Pavel Kudryavtsev, an official at a command center handling the crisis, said that after an initial unsuccessful try, officials established contact with the hostage-takers by telephone.

The hostage-takers had threatened to begin killing their captives by sunrise Saturday if their demands for Russia’s withdrawal from Chechnya weren’t met.