Terror in Moscow

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Terror in Moscow

On a drizzly Wednesday night in October several hundred people were watching a musical at the Ball-Bearing Factory Theater in Moscow. The show was a romantic love story set in Stalin's Russia. As the audience settled down to the second half of the show, dozens of heavily-armed men and women laden with explosives arrived at the theater in three vans. The attackers raked the foyer with gunfire and swarmed into the building.

Inside the auditorium, the theatergoers were watching the show, and heard nothing. That night's performance was recorded, as was usual, by the theater's video camera. As gunmen sealed off the auditorium, the sound and the video were cut. The audience heard the terrorist leader Movsar Barayev announce that if the Russian army did not get out of Chechnya, he would command his followers to blow up the theater and everyone inside it. By now the police had sealed off the surrounding streets. From inside the theater, a hostage used her mobile phone to call a local radio station.

The suicide squad numbered 22 men and 19 women. The woman's job was to guard the hostages and on command to detonate the explosives strapped to their bodies. It was clear from the start that the Kremlin, humiliated by such a bold attack, would never give in to the Chechen demands. Relatives and friends prayed for the hostages to be saved, but everyone expected a bloodbath.

The Russians could not use their troops until they knew more about what awaited them inside the theater. A few children, some Muslims, and two pregnant women were released, but no one dared to go in. Then, 6 hours into the siege, a young woman was seen making a way across the theater car park. No one knew who she was or how she got through the police cordon.

Thursday morning dawned and still no sign of a Russian counterattack. Inside the theater the minutes ticked by. In a quiet moment, the gunman with the video camera focused on his leader. 25 year old Movsar Barayev was the nephew of the notorious Chechen rebel. Embarrassingly for the Russians they claimed to have killed him ten days earlier in Chechnya.

Despite the slogans in Arabic and the women Saudi style costumes, the terrorists were native Chechens, with one exception - a Gulf Arab volunteer who would shave his bushy beard in order not to stand out on the streets of Moscow.

As the Chechens grew more confident they allowed some Russian MPs to enter the theater. Latter in the day two doctors volunteered to go in. Before they could treat any hostages they were made to carry out the body of the terrorists' first victim. She was 26 year old shop assistant who lived nearby.

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Ratings: 9.03/10 from 61 users.
  • Jack1952

    What a horrible story. I can understand, somewhat, a people wanting independence. I cannot understand what compels someone to want it so much that they would get involved in such horrific acts. It would seem the one factor that allows those Chechen rebels to do those things is their religion. It is like a mental illness which takes over their entire being and allows them to think that this is a win-win scenario. If they do gain independence, they've done the work of Allah and will be rewarded in paradise and if they die in the attempt they still go to paradise. They cannot lose.

    It would almost seem as if their struggle has nothing to do with Chechnya. It is more about gaining their own position in the everlasting. Unbelievable selfishness.

  • Harry Nutzack

    the motivation is revenge. the russians act in a rather draconian manner in chechnya. just like all occupying armies, they respond very cruelly to acts that defy their authority, often resulting in the deaths of women, and children. this has gone on for roughly 2 decades now. eventually, minds turn to ideas of "we bring to their soil what they bring to ours". it isn't "their faith", or even "the heavenly reward of martyrdom". it's straight up "eye for an eye". is it "right"? not for you or I, that's for certain, but we have the luxury of seeing it in the 3rd person. walk a mile in their shoes, dig a little deeper into the bloody history, and "how" becomes easier to fathom.

    imagine yourself a young man, who has spent a decade more or less plied by propaganda of "nationalist freedom", while watching a perceived "foreign army of occupation" engage in the cruelty the russian military is famous for. since your early teens, you see the "strike/counterstrike" of insurgency in urban environs, while being pumped with the mantra of "only their pride keeps them here, usurping what is ours". you see the horrors of "collateral damage", and no matter who is actually the cause, the "evil occupier" is given the role of villain in your eyes. (and often, they play the role with gusto). you are conditioned to cheer when the patrol is ambushed, and to rage when they respond in kind.

    it's the blueprint for manufacturing a cruel, nationalistic, sociopathic, seething with hatred, near automaton, hellbent on revenge at any cost. every waking moment occupied by imagining how to exact it, every sleeping one dreaming of achieving it.

    does this excuse the cruelty, the brutality of this incident? of course not, it was a completely depraved act of savagery. it should, however, give you at least an inkling of "how??" though.

  • James Lenane

    Very well said@Harry Nutzack!

  • Jack1952

    Much of what you say is true. It seems, though, that lately, the most brutal conflicts around the world always involve Muslims. The only way a Muslim can avoid punishment in the afterlife is to become a martyr. This would mean that any conflict with an infidel must be about the oppression of Islam, no matter what the real cause is actually about. Independence of Chechnya, in of itself, is not enough to garner a war hero, an instant place in paradise. However, the oppression of Islam in Chechnya, a perceived Muslim state, will get you that place if you are willing to fight to the death to defend that Islamic state. The two are heavily intertwinned. That is what that Arab national was doing in that theatre. He was securing his place in paradise. It would only work if he was defending an Islamic struggle. Nothing else would suffice. Islamic insurgency must be violent or it is not worthy of a jihadist sacrifice.

  • rocketmahn

    WOW! A terrific and frightening documentary, one of the best of its kind.

  • Harry Nutzack

    Jack, i don't know who's had your ear, but it seems they've sold you a bill of goods. if you honestly believe "escaping punishment in the afterlife" is a true motivation for suicide attacks, you are sorely mistaken. sure a few have such motivation, but jihadi's are pretty much exactly like americans immediately after 9/11, rabidly seeking "revenge" over a perceived abuse.

    ALL insurgency must be violent, or it isn't "insurgency". insurgents, no matter their race, creed, color, national origin, or what "sky daddy" they bend their knee to, engage in violence. they don't hold debates. they don't stage sit-ins. no pillow fights, or guerrilla theater. they don't hold bake sales, they kill folks over political ideology. POLITICAL ideology, not religious.

    make no mistake, in all but very few cases, the struggles are ONLY about who gets the "lions share", not which worship method is correct. the use of fatwah is just a mechanism needed to be able to collect funds, and recruit gunsels without running afoul of religious authorities. i lost a very good friend who was of albanian heritage, and moslem faith in the yugo civil war. he renounced his citizenship to return to his homeland to fight for fallen friends, nationalistic pride, and dead family members, not which modality of prayer was correct.

  • Harry Nutzack

    tyvm James.

  • Jack1952

    Of course, a lot of what you say is correct. I realize violent insurgency is reduntant.

    Here in Canada, we have our own separatists. They take part in elections, form political parties, debate, hold referendums, probably have bake sales to solicit political funds. In a way, they are Canada's insurgents. What they don't do is threaten to kill anyone who stands in their way. Maybe, this is why their type of insurgency is so repellant to me. They don't have to behave this way.

    There was only one reason for that Arab nationalist to take part in this horror and it had nothing to do with right and wrong. He supported the Chechens because they were Muslim. That is what the fundamentalists do. There will be those with their own motives, without a doubt, but I don't think the influence of their religion should be taken too lightly either.

    The question of Russian autocracy is another matter and their hands are far from spotless. It is like discussing American foreign policy. After they've taken part in so many underhanded endeavours, one can fall too easily into the trap of blaming everything on them

  • Peace Bewithu

    Great rescue Russia? Was it Michael Jackson's Propofol?

  • Harry Nutzack

    in regards to separatists as insurgents, i'll have to cross the atlantic to give an illustrative example: ireland. specifically northern ireland. in their nationalistic struggle, the "green" have 2 wings that make up a quasi-official IRA, the sinn fein, and the provos (yes, i realize the existence of the myriad splinter orgs, i'm over-simplifying a bit as i use this for illustrative purposes, not an accurate historical chronicle of "the troubles").

    the sinn fein participate in elections, pamphleteer, hold bake sales, give speeches, run candidates for office, and participate in the non-violent, unarmed political minutiae of societal persuasion. they are NOT insurgents, they are dissidents. they work toward an entirely non-violent "solution", or at least pay heavy lip service to the idea of doing so.

    the provos, on the other hand, participate in bombings, assassinations, knee-cappings, running gun battles, bank robberies, and a host of violent pass times with the intent of "ireland for the irish". they do a small amount of "guerrilla theater" (the masked marches, the funeral honor guards, etc), but for the most part occupy themselves with the task of violent overthrow of any british rule on the island. they are insurgents. since the sinn fein and orange authorities have come to a cease fire, the provos have (at least officially) disarmed and disbanded.

    their struggle has religious overtones, and uses sectarian hate speech to incense the perceived enemies and incite their supporters, with equal use of the tactic by both sides. but the struggle is political. the aim is "no more british rule", not "spill all protestant blood". if this were false, the cease fire, and disbanding of the provos would have been impossible, as the orange would still be in mortal peril, and thus still participating in the t1t-for-tat of UDL-provo violence

    though i'm sure the canadian separatists, at times, get worked up enough to pass the threshold of "dirty looks and pillow fights", they are in NO way an insurgency, at least not currently. i seem to remember some more violent outbursts in the early days of the movement, but they seem to have gelled toward a more civil, non-destructive path.

    as far as the arab national that participated in the raid in question, i would concede that seems the most logical reason for his participation, but there could be others. bad blood against russia related to the russian incursion in a-stan (many arabs participated in that particular struggle), the loss of a venerated relative or close friend in chechnya who was a jihadi, and plain vanilla psychosis are all possibilities.

  • Tweet Afton

    ,b>...the provos, on the other hand, participate in bombings, assassinations, knee-cappings, running gun battles, bank robberies, and a host of violent pass times with the intent of "ireland for the irish".(End quote)

    No they don't, the Provisional Irish Republican Army are on ceasefire and have decommissioned their weapons over 10 years ago. You have implied in your rather simplistic view of the war in Northern Ireland that this was an ongoing event where the IRA are concerned.

    Your sly manipulation of text may wash with the Canadians and the Yankees but it will not wash with me.

  • Jack1952

    Canada's separatists are insurgent "lite". We're bogged down in semantics, I think. There was a time of violence in the separatist movement which culminated in the October Crisis in 1970. Pierre Laporte was kidnapped and murdered which appalled most Quebecers, even separatist sympathizers. British diplomat, James Cross was also kidnapped but was released. I think what bothered most people in that province was that a fellow Quebecer was killed. It brought into question the morality of any who would use violence to achieve a separate Quebec. That was the end of any insurrection.

    I have always felt that the religious aspect of the conflict in Northern Ireland had more to do with identifying where a person's political
    ideologies lay. The Protestant identified with Protestant England and the Catholic with the more Catholic Ireland. Religious ideologies were secondary, although, I could be wrong. I worked as a bartender in an Irish Pub and the owner would continuously rail against the English, yet never said a word against Protestants even thought she regularly attended mass. I think this tended to support my impression that the conflict in Northern Ireland really had nothing to do with religion.

  • Harry Nutzack

    had you continued as far as the end of the paragraph you quote, Tweet, you indeed would have seen that fact acknowledged. if my use of present tense was disturbing to you, i do sincerely apologize. i merely used the sinn fein-provo relationship to illustrate the difference between a dissident political party, and an insurgent army. i had no intention to obfuscate the current status of the provos, nor to cast anybody in ireland in a bad light, in the past, or currently. honestly, at the time i typed it, it was the only example of such a clear cut differentiation between "political wing" and "military wing" of what would generally be characterized as a "unified front" i could think of that would be familiar to just about all westerners. these few hours after writing it, i can indeed see how you might view it as a "sly manipulation of text" to imply the provos still participate in insurgent tactics, but i had no intent at such an implication. once again my apologies.

  • CarimboHanky

    seen this years ago, its a really nice, raw documentary... one of the most f***ed up rescue attempts ever...

  • http://tourdupark.com/ Peek

    that was intense..

  • iStateOfMind3 iii

    Not really for two reasons:
    We can't prove it was the PIRA that sanctioned the robbery in the first place. The guy only took bank notes that are from a regional bank (Northern Bank, which they promptly recalled and released a new design) and don't look like Bank of England notes, he took these notes despite plenty of US dollars being in the same area - BIG mistake. That said it's still possible that some old members of the PIRA hatched this plan. To act alone is dangerous, people in the past who have brought unnecessary attention of security services to Republican area's, ran the risk of being punished by local paramilitaries.

  • fratdawgg23

    51:50 This woman understands why the terrorists do such actions: utter desperation. Very sad.

  • smde

    Missed it by that much !

  • Khadijah Ford

    This film had to be the most heart wrenching of ever seen; This was not a movie it was a family is a documentary and real.

    How disgusting for the military to create, and use a type of gas|medicine, that is to be of help and not take into consideration the after effects?!

    Good plan, Horrific follow-through.

    My heart goes out to all Russians who died, and lost family members in a situation like this. I am so sorry.

  • Khadijah Ford

    Yes, that cannot be. It's insanity on a vicious century cycle

  • Patrikvk

    The gas they used, wasn't it based on rohypnol or something similiar?

  • Mahi Tuna

    why aren't the leaders blowing themselves up? always the foot soldier. "yo, fellow fighter..go blow yourself up, your leaders will be sucking on a hookah pipe back at headquarters banging your girlfriend". one day one of these mental midgets might say "you first I'll watch"

  • Toya

    ... I'm speechless ...

  • zinou81

    Very tragic event. However, it was extremely incompetent by the Russians not to implement the clearing of airways on the unconscious and then put them in the recovery position. It is something every soldier and police should be able to do.

    Though the Russians were very lucky that the terrorists not had gas masks with them.