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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Chechen rebels' hostage history
From kidnapping aid workers, journalists and businessmen to seizing hospitals and a Moscow theatre, Chechen rebels have become notorious as hostage-takers.

Budyonnovsk hospital hostages
Hundreds were held in a Russian hospital in 1994

They have often used civilians to draw international attention to their demands for independence from Russia, ratchet up pressure on Moscow - and at times simply to extract hefty ransoms.

The first major hostage drama took place just six months after Russian forces marched into the breakaway republic of Chechnya at the end of 1994 to prevent its secession.

A group of gunmen herded hundreds of civilians into a hospital in the southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk.

They held the building for several days before Russian negotiators agreed to start peace talks and allow the gunmen to escape back to Chechnya. About 100 people were killed during the rebel assault and a botched Russian commando raid.

The peace talks eventually broke down, but gave the Chechens time to regroup against Russian forces who had gained the upper hand in the fighting.

The Russian president at the time, Boris Yeltsin, faced heavy criticism for letting the rebels off so lightly.

Hospital crisis

The incident was condemned by the then Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev.

But when militants staged a similar attack six months later in January 1996, they appeared to have his backing.

Kizlyar hostages wave from bus window
Some hostages from the 1996 Kizlyar siege were taken to Chechnya
This time some 250 militants led by rebel leader Salman Raduyev held up to 3,000 people in a hospital in the Dagestani town of Kizlyar.

They demanded a Russian withdrawal from Chechnya, before releasing most of the hostages and taking the remaining few back to Chechnya.

As they made their getaway across the Chechen border, Russian troops launched an assault.

Several hostages died in the following days as the Russian military brought the crisis to a bloody end.

The situation was complicated when pro-Chechen gunmen hijacked a Black Sea passenger ferry.

The gunmen threatened to blow up the ship - and the 255 hostages on it - if the Russians did not halt their offensive against the Kizlyar hostage-takers.

The hijackers surrendered after four days.


After the first Chechen war ended in 1996, the province descended into lawlessness, and kidnappings became rife as rebel warlords fell out with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

Muhammed Tokcan after being arrested
Muhammed Tokcan led the 2001 hostage-taking in an Istanbul hotel

Victims included British aid workers Jon James and Camilla Carr, who were freed in September 1998 after a year in captivity, and four engineers who were kidnapped but later found beheaded.

Herbert Gregg, an American missionary held hostage for seven months and released in July 1999, said much of his treatment was good - despite the fact that the rebels videoed themselves cutting one of his fingers off.

In 1998 security firm Kroll Associates UK said that there were about 100 expatriates being held hostage in the region.

Hijackings and hotels

The hijackings and hostage takings in recent years are a reminder that Russia's conflict with the Chechen rebels is far from over.

Moscow theatre siege
More than 100 hostages died in the Moscow theatre siege

Three people were killed when Saudi Arabian security forces stormed a plane which was diverted to Medina after it was hijacked as it flew from Istanbul to Moscow in March 2001.

A week later, several pro-Chechen gunmen seized about 120 tourists at a luxury Istanbul hotel in protest against the war.

In July 2001, up to 30 people were held in searing heat on a bus in southern Russia by a Chechen man demanding the release of five Chechens who had been captured in a previous hijacking.

And in May 2002, a lone gunman held about 10 people hostage - again at an Istanbul hotel. They were all released unharmed.

But the incident which remains etched on Russian memories is the theatre siege of October 2002, when some 700 people were taken hostage as they watched a performance in the capital Moscow.

One hundred and twenty nine hostages and 41 Chechen fighters died when Russian troops stormed the theatre. Most were killed by the gas used to knock out the hostage-takers.

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