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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Heaven is a life sentence without parole

"The more of them we kill, all the more certain we will get to heaven."
NALCHIK, Russia - Zurida Shenkao was running errands Thursday morning when she crossed the street and saw gunmen in fatigues, flak jackets and ski masks shooting at the headquarters of a government security agency. Terrified, she dashed into a nearby gift shop; two wounded gunmen ran in after her.

And so began a 24-hour hostage ordeal, during which militants armed with grenades and other weapons forced her to bandage their wounds and used her cell phone to negotiate with Russian officials as gunbattles raged right outside.

The 24-year-old office worker was one of nearly 20 people militants held captive in various buildings during their assault on government and law enforcement offices in Nalchik, a regional capital in Russia's turbulent Caucasus.

Her account, given to The Associated Press by telephone Saturday from her hospital bed, was among the details emerging about the simultaneous attacks, in which at least 128 people were killed, including 92 militants.

At one point, the gunmen explained to Shenkao and four other women in the store the motivation for their bloody assault.

"We are fighting for our motherland. We must kill all those who wear police uniforms and serve the government," said one of the men, both in their 20s, Shenkao recalled. "The more of them we kill, all the more certain we will get to heaven."

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