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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Paper: Dubrovka Hostage-Takers Planned More Hits

The group of Chechen militants who seized hundreds of hostages at the Dubrovka theater on Oct. 23 also had planned a series of explosions and suicide bombings in Moscow, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The group planted a powerful car bomb outside the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, near Mayakovskaya metro, and planned to detonate it, Komsomolskaya Pravda said, citing sources close to the law enforcement team investigating the Dubrovka hostage-taking.

The Lada hatchback with a 50-kilogram bomb was parked outside the theater on Oct. 17, two days before the group set off a smaller car bomb near a McDonald's restaurant in southwest Moscow, the report said.

The explosion at Ulitsa Pokryshkina, which killed one person, was to have become just the first in a series of terrorist attacks that the militants planned to carry out along with the hostage-taking. But after seeing investigators make progress in tracking down the perpetrators of the explosion, the militants scrambled to remove the bomb from the Lada and seized the theater earlier than planned, according to the paper. The same 50-kilogram bomb was placed in the middle of the theater.

After seizing the theater with some 800 people inside, the militants contacted their "liaison," Akhyad Mezhiyev, and demanded that he proceed with a plan to have two female accomplices blow themselves up in downtown Moscow, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda. Mezhiyev took two women to Pushkin Square in his car, but for some reason chose not to let them out, the paper said. Instead, Mezhiyev sent the two women off by train to Ingushetia and passed their explosive-laden belts to his brother.

On Oct. 26, commandos stormed the theater, killing all 41 militants, including 19 women who were wearing belts with explosives. Most of the hostages escaped unharmed, but 129 died, nearly all of them after inhaling a gas pumped into the building to knock out the hostage-takers and then receiving inadequate medical help.

Two days later, officers of the Moscow police's criminal investigation directorate seized Mezhiyev and his brother. Two more of the hostage-takers' suspected accomplices were detained in November. The Mezhiyev brothers are still in custody.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, a spokesman for the police directorate, Alexei Vakhromeyev, said an internal investigation was being conducted to determine who may have leaked sensitive information to the press. He would not confirm or comment on the Komsomolskaya Pravda report.

Neither would Svetlana Petrenko, spokeswoman for the Moscow city prosecutor's office, which is leading the investigation into the Dubrovka hostage-taking. Natalya Veshnyakova, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's Office, also declined to comment.

Investigators had previously announced a link between the Oct. 19 car bombing and the seizure of the theater.