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China seeks Russian raid gas

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

Chechen rebel arrested
Russian forces ended a standoff in a Moscow theater by using a mysterious gas that also caused the deaths of many hostages

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CNN's Ryan Chilcote reports a group of gunmen claiming Chechen sympathy storm a Moscow theater to take the audience hostage
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FACT BOX
A glance at Chechnya and its conflict:
GEOGRAPHY: Oil-rich region in northern Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, 7,720 square miles, or about size of New Jersey. Moscow considers area vital to maintaining influence in Caucasus region.

POPULATION: Estimated 1.2 million people; several hundred thousand have fled region to escape fighting. Population mostly Muslim with strong religious beliefs. Clan-type groups with influential elders.

HISTORY WITH RUSSIA: Conquered by czarist armies in 1859 after decades of war, but Chechens never accepted Russian rule. During World War II, dictator Josef Stalin ordered Chechens deported en masse to Kazakhstan. Many died; rest returned home in 1950s, after Stalin's death.
CURRENT CONFLICT: Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev declared area's independence in 1991 and proclaimed one-man rule in 1993. Russian troops invaded to oust Dudayev in December 1994, setting off 13-month war that killed up to 30,000. In 1997, Russian soldiers killed Dudayev. Fighting resumed in 1999, after raids by Chechen rebels into neighboring region and bombings that killed some 300 at apartment buildings in Russian cities. Russian leaders blamed bombings on Chechens.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- The Beijing leadership has cited Russian authorities' handling of the hostage drama in Moscow last week as a successful "model" for the resolution of similar crises that may occur in China.

Officials in departments including police, state security as well as anti-terrorist and rapid-response squads in the paramilitary People's Armed Police have been asked to study in detail how Russian special forces broke into the theatre, overpowered the terrorists, and took away the hostages.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing said shortly after the crisis had broken last Thursday, Chinese authorities asked its embassy in Moscow to prepare an hour-to-hour run-down of the crisis.

Senior Politburo members, including President Jiang Zemin -- who was in the U.S. at the time -- gave a "high assessment" of the way Russian authorities had used hardball tactics to deal with the Chechen terrorists.

"The Chinese are particularly interested in the type of gas that Russian crack forces used to put the terrorists out of action," said a Western diplomat.

"A senior Politburo member also gave instructions that Beijing sound out the Russian authorities with a view to importing the chemicals."

While meeting Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov on the fringes of the APEC meetings in Mexico last Sunday, Jiang expressed support for Moscow's controversial handling of the hostage crisis.

"We resolutely support the Russian government's actions to combat Chechen terrorism," the official China News Service quoted Jiang as saying.

Disgruntled

Jiang, also head of China's Central Military Commission, said it was "comforting" to learn that the hostage incident had been resolved.

The official media in Beijing has played down the fact that the great majority of the 100-odd hostages who died last week were victims of gas poisoning.

Last month, the defense forces of China and Kyrgyzstan conducted a joint military exercise on combating terrorists active in the two countries, including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Since then, Beijing has repeatedly called on members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan -- to pool their resources in fighting terrorism.

Chinese and Russian media have reported that a number of ETIM members based in China's Xinjiang region had fought alongside Chechen rebels in Russia.

Analysts said Chinese security departments were also anxious to procure more advanced equipment to quell violent and semi-terrorist activities in different parts of China.

According to Chinese media, unemployed workers and peasants --and other so-called disgruntled elements in society -- have used tactics including detonating bombs and holding hostages to vent their anger at authorities.



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