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HostageE.Shmeleva tells herstory
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, 27 2002
HostageE.Shmeleva and the chief of the Interior Ministry anti-organized crime unit, A.Ovchinnikov, tell their tales
The terrorists planned for everything, except ‘Alfa’ group’s expertise
By Yuri Shalimov
The search for terrorist accomplices continues in Moscow. Immediately after the assault on the theatrical center, two men connected with the events were arrested outside the building, while throughout the city 30were arrested on suspicion of assisting the bandits. “The level of preparation for this terrorist attack was such that it could’ve been planned by the general staff of some country,” admitted one of the officers from ‘Alfa’ during an interview with ‘Izvestiya’.
It is now clear that the site selected for the hostage taking was no accident. ‘Nord-Ost’ had been a Moscow success for over a year, and there were always a lot of foreigners and prominent Russian politicians in the auditorium. Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov went to the show twice.
The site suited those planning the terrorist attack. Thetheatrical center for the ball-bearing factory is located in the Proletarka district of Moscow, and security at the leased building is private, unlike security at the factory.
“All the spectators who went to ‘Nord-Ost’ knew it to be a clean and entertaining show,” said Elena Shmeleva, manager of the musical. “The critics said: go see this show and you’ll be proud you live in Russia.”
No complex operation, such as the taking of hostages during a show, could be performed without intelligence, and here the terrorists had many opportunities: a night club is located within the theatrical center, and the center was preparing for a major presentation that required the services of hundreds of workers. Inaddition, there were minor repairs going on in the building, and a restaurant was under construction. Anyone could have been an unwitting informant of the terrorists. Members of Movsar Barayev’s group most likely came to Moscow separately, while the leader showed up last, since he was too well known.
After the assault, in a café adjacent to the center investigators found a two-day supply of water as well as explosives residues. Ithas not been ruled out that the militants kept a strong point inside the territory of the center.
In his last interview, Barayev spoke of how his people spent a long time preparing for the action.
Mostly likely they first made a schematic of the building. Thiswas a simple task: even a fire evacuation plan would have sufficed. Their second task was to get a schedule of performances, in order to accurately time the hostage taking. Itshould not be during intermission, and the first few seconds of their appearance should be made to look like an unexpected twist on the part of the director.
“It took place at the beginning of the second act,” recalled Elena Shmeleva. “After the scene with the pilots, when they were tap dancing. Twomen then ran onto the stage and began firing over their heads.”
Another problem was transportation. Carsare easiest to buy by proxy. Stolen cars would be unsuitable any problem with the police could threaten to wreck the operation. Inthe theatrical center’s parking lot, only one minivan was later found to belong to Barayev’s group. Itis likely that this vehicle only brought weapons and clothing to the scene, and the militants may have gotten dressed inside it.The others were probably already waiting in the café.
The terrorists were not armed in the usual fashion for such attacks. Their assault rifles were AKS in 5.45 mm, and the militants did not like Makarov pistols. Dragging a 10-kilo Kalashnikov from Chechnya is troublesome and dangerous; they are much easier to buy in Moscow.
Interior Ministry investigators discovered one of their apartments. Theroom looked more like an armory, filled with weapons with a black market value of 200thousand dollars.
“This apartment was a warehouse, an assembly area.” Alexander Ovchinnikov, chief of the Interior Ministry’s anti-organized crime unit is certain of this. “And it was conveniently located 200meters from the Moscow Ring Road.”
Here is the most likely scenario of the hostage taking:
The first to see the militants would have been private security stationed at the service entrance. Toour knowledge, there was only one guard. Apowerful blow from the attackers knocked him down. Asecond group simultaneously broke through the main entrance. Aninteresting detail: there were 18women among the attackers, so the first calls to the police reported that the building was being taken over by teenage hooligans.
The terrorists not only carefully chose the object of their attack and their weapons, but they also prepared for a possible counter-assault (by the security services). Evenbefore the capture of theatrical center, they prepared a special schematic for booby-trapping the building. Itseemed that everything was done to eliminate even the very idea of an assault, but, fortunately, the plan for the counter-operation was much more effective.
The militants placed kamikazes along the perimeter of the auditorium. Inaddition to the ‘living bombs’ in the hall, there was another bomb with a remote control. Itsexplosion was supposed to destroy people on the balcony. Theterrorists’ coordinators did not make themselves known, but they closely followed the events in the auditorium. Outside, among the crowd of journalists and curious observers, were also militants, and across the street the militants rented an apartment from which they carried out round the clock surveillance. Coordination was even done using the Internet. Manyinsurgents were dressed in civilian clothes, and one of them even wore a t-shirt with the ‘Nord-Ost’ musical logo.
It seems that Barayev was planning to leave the building and mingle with the crowd of hostages. There were mostly female suicide bombers in the auditorium where the explosives were placed, while most of the men were in a nearby hallway.
On Sunday, it was reported that one of the patients at Metropolitan Hospital #13 had traces of gunpowder on her hands and clothing. Detectives believe that this woman could be one of the militants’ lookouts. Thenumber suspected of aiding the terrorists changes by the hour: this Sunday four were arrested. Twowere carrying diagrams of the Kursk railway station, along with demolition equipment and 400grams of TNT.
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