On October 23, 2002, the second act of the musical ?Nord Ost? was just beginning in the Palace of Culture of the Moscow Bearing Plant, when an armed man he went up on stage and fired a machine gun into the air.
terrorists, including several women with explosives strapped to the body, they identified themselves as members of the Chechen army. They had one demand: that Russian military forces begin an immediate and complete withdrawal from Chechnya, the war-torn region north of the Caucasus Mountains.
Chechnya, with its predominantly Muslim population, it long struggled to assert its independence. A disastrous two-year war ended in 1996, but Russian forces returned to the region just three years after Russian authorities blamed the Chechens for a series of bombings in Russia.
In 2000, the president Vladimir Putin he was chosen in part for his hard-line stance toward Chechnya and his public promise not to negotiate with terrorists.
After a 57-hour standoff in the Palace of Culture, during which two hostages were killed, Russian special forces surrounded and raided the theater on the morning of October 26.
It was later revealed that they had injected a powerful narcotic gas in the building knocking nearly all of the terrorists and hostages unconscious before smashing through the walls and ceiling and entering through underground sewer tunnels.
Most of the guerrillas and 120 hostages were killed during the attack. Subsequently, the security forces were forced to defend the decision to use the dangerous gas saying that only a complete surprise attack could have disarmed the terrorists before they had time to detonate their explosives.
After the theater crisis the Putin government further cracked down on Chechnya, drawing accusations of kidnapping, torture and other atrocities.
In response, the chechen rebels they continued their terrorist attacks on Russian soil, including a suspected suicide bombing on a Moscow subway in February 2004 and another major hostage crisis at a Beslan school in September.
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