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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Deadly Tactics of Russian Rescue Operation

Aired October 28, 2002 - 10:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We turn our attention now to the hostage siege in Russia. We have new information this morning about the rescue operation and the use of a deadly gas that's being blamed for killing more than 100 hostages.
CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by with the latest.

Good morning -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Anderson.

Officials here at the Pentagon say they have heard now from U.S. Embassy officials in Moscow, and what they're reporting in is very disturbing to them.

The latest reports indicate that the gas that the Russians used to end the siege in that Moscow theater contained either a morphine or heroin-based type agent. And the reason they have come to this conclusion is doctors in Moscow apparently first tried an antidote known as Atropine. That is a standard antidote for treatment in these types of cases. It had absolutely no effect, we are told.

Doctors then switched to another antidote called Naloxone. This is an antidote that is used in drug overdose cases, specifically against heroin or opiate-typed agents. It had some effect. It helped many of the medical treatment against the hostages, we're told.

So, this morning, it looks like it was either a morphine or heroin-based type agent in that gas. Officials don't know any specific details yet from the Russian government, because, of course, Moscow is refusing to disclose what type of agent they exactly used. They say it might give terrorists an advantage in another attack -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, Barbara, we don't -- basically, we know this based on what the doctors are telling us about the response the patients are having to their treatment, yes?

START: Exactly right. They used an antidote that is used in drug overdose cases, specifically to counter the effects of heroin or opiates, and that antidote apparently worked. It was the medical treatment that seemed to help many of the hostages, and that is what has led U.S. officials to this conclusion this morning that it was either a morphine or heroin-based agent, some kind of compound with a chemical structure possibly virtually identical to morphine or heroin. They don't know yet -- it's very important to mention they do not know yet whether specifically morphine or heroin was in the gas. It may or may not have been, but it was something with a chemical compound structure that responded to this antidote exactly as if it was heroin or morphine.

COOPER: All right, Barbara Starr, good work -- thanks very much.

STARR: Thank you.

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