AP-Fotolur photo: An Interior Ministry rescue worker carries a body out of the theater where hundreds of hostages were being held by Chechen rebels, Moscow, early Saturday, Oct. 26.
By Artur Terian in Moscow
Three Armenian nationals were thought to be among several dozen foreign captives who stayed alive in the hostage-taking crisis at a Moscow theater that came a to a sudden and bloody end on Saturday.
Diplomats in the Russian capital said none of the approximately 75 foreigners was killed when special forces stormed the theater before dawn, shooting to death 34 Chechen gunmen and freeing more than 700 of their hostages. The storming, accompanied by the release of sleeping gas inside the theater, left at least 67 hostages dead.
Only one of the captive Armenians, a 27-year-old woman, was earlier identified by authorities. The freed hostages were taken to city hospitals. Many of them were unconscious or had difficulty walking when the three-day ordeal abruptly ended.
Officials at the Armenian embassy in Moscow told RFE/RL that they could not get access to the three Armenians throughout the day. They said two other hostages were ethnic Armenians holding Russian passports. There was no word on their whereabouts.
The standoff and its bloody outcome raised fears about possible retaliatory violence against scores of Chechens and other people from the Caucasus, including Armenians, that live in various parts of Russia. They have often been targets of harassment by Russian law-enforcement agencies and extreme nationalist groups. Russian President Vladimir Putin told his security agencies on Friday to rule out a surge in racist attacks on the Caucasians.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said he regrets the loss of life, but praised Russia's handling of the crisis, according to the Associated Press. "We congratulate the Russian authorities for the completion of the operations and for their success in limiting the loss of innocent life," Vershbow said at a news briefing.