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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Hostage-takers 'ready to die'
The Chechen rebels (photo: NTV)
The rebels warned of more co-ordinated actions
Chechen rebels holding hundreds of hostages inside a Moscow theatre have said they are ready and willing to die if their demands are not met by Russia.


I swear by God we are more keen on dying than you are keen on living

Chechen hostage-taker
In an interview with the BBC Russian Service, one of the hostage-takers warned that more co-ordinated actions would follow if Russia did not stop the war in Chechnya and withdraw its troops.

"This is only the first stage. The second stage, third, fourth and so on will follow. Our deadline is one week.... If it is not met we will start killing the hostages."

Open in new window : In pictures
Images of life amid Chechnya's war

The hostage-taker also said the organisers of the raid were members of a group called "Suicide fighters from Chechnya", denying reports of any links with the al-Qaeda network.

'Freedom and paradise'

In a chilling message to Moscow, he said the group was prepared for a possible assault by Russian elite troops and would blow up the building.

Movsar Barayev, according to the Russian NTV channel
Movsar Barayev is thought to have led the raid

"We have nothing to lose. We have already covered 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) by coming here. There is no way back...We have come to die.

"Our motto is freedom and paradise. We already have freedom as we've come to Moscow. Now we want to be in paradise."

The hostage-taker said the group came to Moscow not to kill the hostages or to fight with Russia's elite troops, as they have had enough fighting in Chechnya over the years.

"We came here with a specific aim - to put an end to the war and that is it."

'We have chosen to die'

Meanwhile, Qatar-based TV channel al-Jazeera broadcast statements allegedly made by several other hostage-takers inside the theatre.

Gunwoman (NTV)
The rebels are armed and wearing explosives

"I swear by God we are more keen on dying than you are keen on living," a black-clad male said in the broadcast believed to have been recorded on Wednesday.

"Each one of us is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of God and the independence of Chechnya."

The channel also showed footage of a woman in Islamic dress who claimed to be one of the hostage-takers.

"We have chosen to die in Moscow and we will kill hundreds of infidels," said the woman, covered in a black robe from head to foot and flanked by several other women.

"Even if we die, thousands of our brothers and sisters are ready to give their lives to free our motherland."


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25 Oct 02 | Europe
19 Aug 02 | Europe
09 Sep 02 | Europe
27 Sep 02 | Europe
25 Jun 01 | Europe
24 Oct 02 | Europe
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