Crisis at Moscow Theater Continues

PRAVDA.Ru Correspondent Reports From Scene of Hostage Taking

As of 5:30 p.m., the hostage standoff at the Palace of Culture continues. As many as 50 Chechen rebels inside of the famous Moscow theater are holding an estimated 600 men, women and children. The rebel’s demands are simple; Russia must remove all of its forces from Chechnya at once, or these criminals/terrorists have vowed to blow themselves, the building and the remaining victims to smithereens.

Apparently, these Chechens have booby-trapped the building with explosives and at least some of them have strapped explosives to their bodies. Russian government officials have called off negotiations, at least for the immediate future. The negotiations have been tenuous at best and are now at a standstill. Food, water and bedding have been delivered to the theater, in exchange for the release of a few women and children.

The incident began last night during the intermission of a musical performance at the theater. The Chechens, armed with automatic weapons and explosives forced their way into the building, taking the innocents at gunpoint. Several people managed to escape immediately after the criminals entered the building. More have been released since; however, several hundred remain inside.

The hostages are mostly European, but a few Americans as well as Asians are among the victims. I say victims because that is what they are. They are victims of a bunch of cowards who took advantage of a group of unarmed theatergoers to further their ridiculous political agenda.

What are 40 criminals going to do with 600 people? How will they control them? Obviously they mean business since they have already killed one hostage who attempted to use her cell phone. On the other hand, they are outnumbered more than 10 to 1 and they have to sleep sometime. If the Chechens were smart, they would release the majority of the victims and keep only the most important among them. Of course brains may be in limited supply, given that the Chechens have placed themselves in a no win situation and have made demands that simply cannot be granted. Ultimately they will be forced to either surrender or die.

At one time I was a hostage negotiations instructor and have studied terrorist methods and many hostage situations. I have even negotiated a couple, some ended happily others didn’t. The last thing a hostage taker wants is an overwhelming large group of hostages. Being human, hostages have needs that must be met whether the hostage takers like it or not. They have to be fed, allowed to relieve themselves, unless the hostage takers are willing to deal with the mess 600 people can create. With that many hostages, there is bound to be a few who have medical concerns that require medication, what will their fate be?

If the hostage takers are in fact willing to die for their cause than none of this is of any consequence. They will simply play the media and the government for as long as they can and end the situation violently. The breakdown in negotiations isn’t necessarily an irreconcilable situation. It is quite common for talks between negotiator and hostage taker to stop for some period and eventually begin again. Terrorists are often as well trained in negotiations as the government negotiators and they also know how the “game” is played.

Unlike run of the mill criminals who are often forced to take hostages because of unforeseen circumstances that arise during the commission of their crime and who only want a way out, terrorists train for such situations and know full well what they are doing. And unlike common criminals, terrorists are much more likely to kill their hostages and if need be, die themselves. Terrorists see themselves as soldiers and the true believers are difficult to negotiate with.

We may very well see more hostages released if the situation continues, either through skillful negotiations on the part of the government, or simply out of necessity. However, if the hostage takers went into the situation knowing there would be no way out and are truly willing to kill as many people as they can, the fate of the victims has been sealed from the first moment. Only these criminals know for sure what the outcome is to be.

David Misselt Trainee University of Wisconsin – River Falls

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