| Chechen suicide squad leader Movsar Barayev speaks in footage filmed by Russian TV channel NTV on Friday. (AP/PTI)
Moscow, Oct. 25 (Reuters): A few days stubble on his chin, dressed in combat gear and dark woollen hat, Movsar Barayev, leader of a Chechen “suicide squad” holding some 700 people hostage in a Moscow theatre, bared his face to the world early today.
A relative of well-known Chechen field commander Arbi Barayev, Movsar Barayev was one of a handful of guerrillas shown for the first time on Russia’s private NTV channel, whose crew was briefly allowed inside the building.
Barayev — the only one to show his face — was filmed with two masked men, all three heavily armed with AK-47 assault rifles, their ammunition pouches clearly full, grenades hanging from their belts.
The trio were later joined by two women, dressed in black, an inscription in Arabic prominent on the front of the dark hoods that covered their heads and masked their faces.
One woman was shown holding a pistol and appeared to be fingering a detonator attached to what NTV correspondent Sergei Dedukh said looked like a bundle of explosives wrapped in cellophane and strapped to her abdomen. The brief footage, about five minutes long, showed Barayev and his associates in the kitchen of the Melnikova Street theatre in southeastern Moscow, just a few kilometres from President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin offices.
“He (Barayev) is the only one of the six terrorists we saw who was not wearing a mask, was not hiding his face,” NTV’s Dedukh said, adding that the guerrilla leader appeared cool and collected.
“In addition, apart from the male terrorists, we saw two women terrorists. They are indeed dressed in black like shahids sacrificing themselves in the name of the faith, as they say,” he said. The guerrillas were clearly seen talking but their voices were indistinct. It was not clear if the audio had been masked because of demands by the Russian authorities.
Also shown was a group of women hostages, well dressed for what they had expected to be an enjoyable night at a popular musical, Nord-Ost (North-East) — the heroic musical tale of a Russian Arctic explorer.
One of the women nervously played with her fingers, while the others appeared calm.
The Chechen guerrillas, who are demanding Russian forces withdraw from their separatist homeland in southern Russia, shot dead one woman hostage who tried to escape when the theatre was seized late on Wednesday.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein today denounced the seizure of hundreds of people at a Moscow theatre by Chechen guerrillas, saying it would only end up benefiting the US and Israel.
In an appeal to “Muslims in general and Chechens in particular” released in a statement read on Iraqi television, Saddam said the siege would hurt the Chechen cause. “It is not wise that the Chechens lose the sympathy of the Russians... and others,” the statement said.