Gunmen Hold Theatre Audience Hostage in Moscow

News   Gunmen Hold Theatre Audience Hostage in Moscow Twenty to thirty armed men stormed into a Moscow theatre Oct. 23 during the performance of a popular musical and are holding an audience of hundreds hostage, according to news reports.

Twenty to thirty armed men stormed into a Moscow theatre Oct. 23 during the performance of a popular musical and are holding an audience of hundreds hostage, according to news reports.

The men entered firing into the air. CNN reported that demands were made for "an end to the war," indicating the attack was related to Russia's ongoing conflict with Chechen rebels.

The theatre, the House of Culture on Melnikov Street, was quickly surrounded by Russian security forces, as well as interior ministry troops, police dogs and snipers. Trolley buses block the surrounding streets.

Gunmen reportedly allowed theatregoers to make calls on their on cell phones. Children were released. Later, Muslim audience members were allowed to go. It is believed 700 people are still in the theatre. The theatre can hold 1,163.

The House of Culture hosts Nord-Ost, a popular Russian musical based on Veniamin Kaverin's novel "Two Captains," a story about two students during the Soviet era. More than 350,000 people have seen the show. A production of the Broadway hit 42nd Street — with an American cast — is currently playing a Moscow run as the MDM Theater (Moscow Youth Palace).

Since a bitter '90s war between Russia and the southern Russian province of Chechnya, Chechen rebels have regularly staged terrorist bombings and shootings, killing hundreds.

—By Robert Simonson