Two more Moscow hostages die

Two more hostages, freed from the Moscow theatre siege by Russian troops, died in hospital overnight from the gas used to incapacitate them and their captors.

Two more hostages, freed from the Moscow theatre siege by Russian troops, died in hospital overnight from the gas used to incapacitate them and their captors.

It brought the death toll of victims in the hostage crisis to at least 119.

Russian authorities continued to issue conflicting counts of the dead.

Lyubov Zhomova, a spokeswoman for the Moscow health committee. said there were 119 victims as of today, including two who died of gunshot wounds, meaning that 117 died of the effects of the gas used to knock out the hostage-takers.

However, Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office, said the number of gas victims already stood at 117 on Tuesday. She said three people who were not among the assailants died of gunshot wounds, bringing the total to 120.

In Germany, Dr Thomas Zilker, a toxicology professor at Munich University Clinic, said today that blood and urine samples from two Germans among the former hostages showed traces of halothane, a gas used as a hospital inhalational anesthetic.

He said he believed the gas pumped into the theatre likely also contained other substances.

US scientists believe the Russian special forces used an opium based-gas.

Meanwhile, Danish police arrested Akhmed Zakayev, a senior aide to Chechen rebel President Aslan Maskhadov, after receiving an extradition request from Russia saying the rebel envoy was suspected of involvement in the hostage-taking, as well as other terrorist attacks.

A judge ordered Zakayev jailed until November 12 pending an investigation.

In Moscow, where several funerals were held for hostages, the two houses of the Russian parliament began their sessions with a moment of silence for the victims of the theatre raid.

The upper house, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to allocate additional funding to fighting terrorism.

The chamber also adopted a resolution praising law enforcement agencies “that saved hundreds of people” in the theatre and vowing to take all necessary measures to fight terrorism.

Russian officials have defended the rescue operation in which the building was filled with a secret gas before special forces stormed it, rescuing hundreds and killing what the Federal Security Service said were 50 of their captors.

The incapacitating gas was intended to prevent the hostage-takers from triggering explosives strapped to their waists and rigged around the theatre. It worked but it also knocked out most of the hostages.

In an opinion poll, 85% approved of President Vladimir Putin’s actions during the crisis and 82% said they approved of the actions of law enforcement agencies.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev also praised Putin’s handling of the crisis.

“In those extreme circumstances that Russia lived through, Putin acted coolly and responsibly. I know it was not easy for him. However, he could not accept the demand for capitulation. It was out of the question,” Gorbachev wrote in a newspaper article today.

As of this morning, 230 rescued hostages remained in hospital, 15 of them in serious condition. A total of 434 patients had been released to anxious relatives, but many continued to visit hospitals for outpatient treatment.

Among the dead were nine foreigners, including one American.

Russian Health Minister Yuri Shevchenko today defended the emergency response and said there was no need to warn doctors about the gas or to inform them of its contents, since they were ready for anything.

The rebels who seized the Moscow theatre on October 23 demanded that Putin withdraw Russian troops from Chechnya, where the most recent war began in 1999.

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