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Tear Gas Bomb Injures 20 at Russian Show at Met

September 03, 1986|Associated Press

NEW YORK — A tear gas bomb exploded in the Metropolitan Opera House on Tuesday and injured at least 20 people, five minutes into a performance by a Russian dance troupe. Callers who said they represented the Jewish Defense League claimed responsibility.

A loud pop resounded through the sold-out auditorium in Lincoln Center, where the Moiseyev Dance Company was performing.

Tears ran down peoples' faces as the acrid smell wafted through the theater.

A call to JDL offices to confirm whether the organization was in fact involved was answered by a machine.

The bomb exploded just after the orchestra played the national anthems of the Soviet Union and the United States, said Johanna Fiedler, a spokeswoman for the Met.

The explosion apparently occurred near the back of the orchestra section. The fumes moved forward, and the 4,000 people in the house left immediately.

Anonymous Call

Minutes after the explosion, an anonymous telephone caller to the Associated Press gave this message and hung up:

"Approximately five minutes ago, a powerful irritant was released at the Moiseyev Dance Company at Lincoln Center. This was done by Russian members of the Jewish Defense League movement. These actions will continue and escalate. Never again."

Minutes later, another caller, who said he was Chaim Ben Yosef, national chairman of the JDL, telephoned AP to claim responsibility for the bomb. However, the JDL's national chairman is actually Irv Rubin.

The man identifying himself as Ben Yosef said the JDL set off the tear gas because "the Soviets come here as a cultural propaganda offensive to make Americans feel that they (the Soviets) are not so bad."

The dance company was opening its first appearance in the United States since 1974. Its shows at Lincoln Center were to run through Sept. 14.

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