Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Picture Emerges of How They Did It

Two weeks after the Dubrovka theater was seized, officials have given no clear answers to how dozens of Chechen militants snuck into Moscow, how they delivered arms and explosives to the city and where they stayed while preparing their attack.

Moscow police and the Federal Security Service have not given out any information officially, saying Moscow prosecutors are in charge of the investigation. The Moscow city prosecutor's office has refused to disclose details of the investigation.

Official releases about the number of people who participated in the Oct. 23 raid, who were killed in the storming and detained by special services have changed constantly.

According to the latest information, there were 41 hostage-takers, 19 of them women, and all were killed by Alpha troops who stormed the theater.

"As of today, investigators have no information that any of the terrorists was left alive and escaped," a spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office told Interfax on Tuesday.

Initially, three suspected hostage-takers were reported detained inside the theater when it was stormed on Oct. 26. It was not clear whether they died or were released.

Yana Neserkhoyeva, a Chechen woman who went to see "Nord Ost" on Oct. 23 and was detained after she spoke Chechen in a hospital where she was delivered unconscious, was released Tuesday evening, Interfax said, citing Moscow prosecutors.

Meanwhile, Moscow prosecutors have charged one suspected accomplice, a man accused of serving as the hostage-takers' informer and updating them about developments from outside the theater, NTV reported Tuesday, citing the Prosecutor General's Office.

Two other suspected accomplices have been released because no evidence against them could be found, Interfax said, also citing the prosecutor's office.

Despite the silence of investigators, it is possible to construct a coherent picture of events by piecing together the comments of officials like Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the words of hostage-takers and other Chechen separatists, and information leaked by law enforcement officials.

Movsar Barayev, the nephew of a notorious Chechen warlord who himself is on Russia's wanted list, came to Moscow by train from the southern city of Mineralniye Vody to lead the hostage-taking attack, Luzhkov said on TV-Center television last week, citing special services.

At least one female hostage-taker is believed to have taken the bus to Moscow in early October from the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt. Investigators reportedly found the bus ticket with the woman after she was killed.

This bus with a Dagestani license plate was reported seized by police in Moscow last week.

Another bus, a Mercedes from Chechnya, was seized by police Oct. 28 after traces of dynamite were found in the baggage compartment. Police held the 15 Chechen passengers for three days but found no evidence against them, Interfax said.

The other hostage-takers also most likely traveled to Moscow over land from various points, Luzhkov said. Anyone who flies from the North Caucasus is run through an FSB database.

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, in a statement posted on the rebel web site Kavkazcenter.com last week, said he prepared the group for the raid.

Earlier, Interfax had quoted pro-Moscow Chechen police chief Said-Selim Peshkhoyev as saying the hostage-takers were trained inside Chechnya.

The explosives -- in total, about 120 kilograms, according to the FSB -- were delivered to Moscow from Grozny by regular bus, NTV reported last week. Chechen police have detained an arms trader in Chechnya who is suspected of selling the explosives to Barayev, it said.

The hostage-takers came to Moscow from one to two months prior to the raid, Barayev's deputy Abu Bakar told an NTV crew that went inside the theater. He said they attended the musical several times to case the site.

"We choose the theater because it is in the center of the city and there were a lot of people there," Abu Bakar said.

In a phone call from the besieged theater, intercepted by the FSB and presented to journalists last week, a man identified as Abu Bakar told his obscure interlocutor that 100 other Chechen kamikaze fighters remained outside the theater, ready to carry out new attacks.

Interfax, citing a source involved in the investigation, reported last week that a videotape had been found on the dead hostage-takers indicating they had considered the Moskovsky Dvorets Molodyozhi, or MDM, theater, where "42nd Street" is playing, as a possible target for their raid.

Barayev's group also considered the seizure of at least one of the nuclear reactors at Moscow's Kurchatov Institute, the government-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported last week, citing sources in the secret services. The militants had cased the institute, but determined that the security was too tight, according to the report, which followed a warning from Akhmed Zakayev, a spokesman for separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, that some rebel groups may try to seize a Russian nuclear facility.

Matthew Bunn, a nuclear security expert from Harvard University, found the report odd. "Security systems that are being installed on Russian nuclear facilities are not designed to handle anything of the size and capability of the group that seized the Moscow theater," he said Tuesday. "If you talk about 50 highly trained suicidal people with arms and explosives, then you'll need a very substantial force that would be able to fight them off."

In the six weeks prior to the Oct. 23 raid, Barayev's group had accumulated weapons and explosives in a nightclub located in the same building as the theater, Moscow region Governor Boris Gromov told RIA-Novosti.

The nightclub Central Station has ties to Ruslan Baisarov, a businessman in the Moscow Chechen diaspora, according to the news agency. The club had been renovated and several Chechens participated in construction work. Barayev's people disguised themselves as workers and hid explosives and arms in the club's back rooms, RIA-Novosti said.

The owner of the nightclub, Ilya Abaturov, denied any link to Baisarov in a recent telephone interview.

In a similar report shortly after special forces took over the theater, Ekho Moskvy radio reported, citing sources in law enforcement, that the hostage-takers used a Slavic front man to rent a cafe inside the theater building and had used it to store explosives.

According to investigators, the Chechen commandos were armed with 114 hand grenades, 15 assault rifles and 11 pistols. They also had 25 belt pouches with explosives and two 40-kilogram self-made bombs. Altogether, they had 30 mines and booby traps in the theater.

There has been no information on where Barayev's group found lodging in Moscow in the weeks prior to the attack.

They arrived at the theater in three minivans on the evening of Oct. 23 clad in plain clothes and carrying pistols and assault rifles, Luzhkov said. They changed into military gear in the theater's lobby and rushed into the hall.

The failure to detect or stop the planned raid could explain the reticence of police or security services to disclose any details they have since discovered about how it was carried out.

In theory, they could have intercepted Barayev's people at any one of four stages: while they trained in Chechnya, traveled to Moscow, stockpiled explosives, or just moved around the city.

This, however, would be difficult without Chechen informers, said Sergei Goncharov, a former head of the KGB's elite Alpha squad and a member of the Moscow City Duma.

"Planting an agent in the close-knit combat brotherhood of the Chechen rebels is practically impossible," he said in a telephone interview Monday. "Underfunded and having their networks of agents ruined in the past decade, the Russian secret services have no resources for intelligence warfare in Chechnya."