Lethal chemical now used as a drug haunts theatre hostages

SHANGHAI - Early one morning in October 2002, a dense white cloud silently filled Moscow's Dubrovka Theater.

It had been three days since Chechen militants took more than 800 people hostage. Russian special forces faced an impossible task: liberating the hostages from a theatre laced with booby traps and several dozen suicide bombers. They turned to chemicals Russian scientists had been researching for years, and pumped an aerosol containing potent forms of the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the theatre before storming it.

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