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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hospital Survivors Tell Tale of Bloody Siege

KIZLYAR, Dagestan -- Nurses and volunteers carried patients moaning in fear and pain out of Kizlyar's hospital Wednesday after Chechen gunmen abandoned it, leaving the body of a murdered policeman on an upper floor.

Men carrying patients in iron beds jostled with Russian police carrying out mines laid by the gunmen on the lower floors of the gray, four-story building.

Torn sheets fluttered from broken windows, and cartridge shells were scattered on the road outside the hospital. Hot-water pipes punctured in 24 hours of gunfire spat water and steam into the chilly air.

The fighters from Chechnya seized the hospital Tuesday, taking patients and staff hostage and rounding up civilians from surrounding apartment blocks. They originally threatened to kill their captives unless Russia withdrew troops from their neighboring orange blanket. She said she was home when the rebels started banging on her door.

"We asked them to let us get dressed, but they broke the door down and started shooting," she said, displaying a mouthful of gold teeth as she spoke.

Other victims still lay inside the hospital, where mattresses were stuffed into broken windows to stop chill drafts and blood-soaked rags were left scattered on the floors.

"The hospital was full. There were at least 3,000 people. Then they went around town and collected more," said Mohamed Maladzhiyev, the duty doctor in the surgery.

"People in each department had been wounded in the hand or the foot. They killed a policeman on the spot, and two old women did not survive the strain," he added. Shots rang out outside the hospital as the doctor spoke, but their source was unclear.

Patients said Russian special forces had fired guns and shells at the hospital. They left the town in the morning in a dozen buses, following the convoy of Chechen separatists.

Maladzhiyev said several of his colleagues had accompanied the rebels. "Were they volunteers? I do not know. The rebels had guns. They said you must come with us," he said bitterly.

His assistant said her son had to go with the rebels. "I do not know where he is," she said. "Everything has gone from our house -- documents, everything."

Kurban Aliyev, who had been receiving treatment in the hospital, said he did not hold a grudge against the rebels.

"The Chechens want freedom," he said. "They did not do anything to the civilians. The Russians started shooting, and they shot back. They were shooting day and night."

Released hostages said civilians had been herded to the top two floors of the building while fighters mined the basement and the lower floors to stop Russian troops from storming the structure.

Unexploded shells, guarded by Russian soldiers, still lay on the floor in one room. Next to them were two unopened bottles of sparkling wine -- but there seemed little to celebrate.