(Updated Thursday 9:45 AM) About 50 heavily armed Muslim Chechen terrorists wearing explosives stormed a crowded Moscow theater last night and took the 500-700 people inside hostage. The standoff continues today as the terrorists are threatening to kill all the hostages unless the war in Chechnya comes to an end. The terrorists last night allow threatened to blow up the building should Russian security personnel attempt to free the hostages.

Minutes after the standoff began the terrorists released children as well as Muslims who were inside. They also placed explosives on load bearing columns in the theatre as well on the bodies of several of the hostages. The Chechens say they plan on keeping the hostages for an extended period of time unless their demands are met.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon telephoned Russian Ambassador to Israel Gennady Terasov yesterday and expressed his solidarity with the Russian people in light of the hostage situation. Sharon said that Israel would be happy to help in any way possible to bring the situation to an end. Terasov thanked the Prime Minister and promised to convey his remarks to Moscow.

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