Islamic State claims responsibility for Moscow concert hall attack

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Islamic State claimed responsibility for a deadly attack that saw gunmen in combat gear burst into a concert hall in Moscow on Friday night, spraying bullets into the crowd and throwing explosives.

At least 40 people were killed and more than 145 injured after the attack at  in north-west Moscow, with a major fire burning through the building for hours.

Several children taking part in a dance competition at the same venue were among those injured in the attack, according to reports, with one apparently killed.

Footage showed at least four people in military-style fatigues walking up to a crowd of people at the entrance of the and shooting them at point blank range with automatic weapons.

An image of the gunmen as they entered the Crocus City Hall
The gunmen as they entered the Crocus City Hall

The gunmen also blew up part of the concert hall, prompting a fire that had caused the roof of the building to partially collapse by yesterday evening.

The gunmen were still believed to be at large late Friday, after the Russian National Guard left the building following an extensive search for the perpetrators.

“There may be several armed men in green camouflage suits in [a white] car. A large number of roadblocks have been set up around the Moscow region,” Russian security forces said.

IS, the militant group that once sought control over swathes of Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement on the group’s Telegram channel.

“Fighters attacked a large gathering of Christians in the city … and they killed and wounded hundreds and inflicted great damage on the place before safely withdrawing to their bases,” the statement said.

Gunmen attacked the concert venue
Gunmen attacked the concert venue - Shutterstock
Blaze burns at Crocus City Hall near Moscow
Blaze burns at Crocus City Hall near Moscow - Anadolu

IS is active in Russia and the five neighbouring Muslim former Soviet Central Asian states, with thousands of Russian and Russian-speaking jihadists headed to Syria at the height of so-called Islamic Caliphate in the 2010s.

Russia is seen as a target because it helped defeat IS in Syria and assists allies in Central Asia root out Islamist cells.

Russia’s FSB security services says it deals with dozens of Islamic terrorist plots every year.

Earlier this month, the FSB killed two Kazakh nationals who it said were part of an IS cell planning to attack a synagogue in Moscow.

Moscow’s foreign ministry called the incident “a bloody terrorist attack” that world leaders should condemn. Vladimir Putin has not yet commented but his spokesman said that he was being kept up-to-date on events.

Kyiv earlier denied any involvement.

“Let’s be clear, Ukraine absolutely has nothing to do with these events,” Ukraine’s presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said on Telegram.

A Russian servicemen patrols the area as the Crocus City Hall burns in the background
A Russian servicemen patrols the area as the Crocus City Hall burns in the background - AP/Dmitry Serebryakov
a Kalashnikov assault rifle lies on the ground as Russian investigators work inside Crocus City Hall concert venue following a terrorist attack in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow
A Kalashnikov assault rifle lies on the ground as Russian investigators work inside Crocus City Hall concert venue following a terrorist attack in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow - Shutterstock

The White House also said Kyiv was not behind the attack. “There is no indication at this time that Ukraine or Ukrainians were involved in the shooting,” John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman, told reporters.

Moscow retorted that it was too early to rule out a Ukrainian link to the attack. on the concert in Moscow. “On what basis do officials in Washington draw any conclusions about anyone’s innocence in the midst of a tragedy?” the foreign ministry said.

Dmitry Medvedev, the former president, said that if Ukraine was found to be behind the attack, Russia would hunt the perpetrators down and kill them.

“If it is established that these are terrorists of the Kyiv regime, all of them must be found and ruthlessly destroyed as terrorists,” Mr Medvedev wrote on Telegram. “Official representatives of the state that committed such a crime” would also be punished, he added.


Moscow terror attack raises questions about FSB failure to prevent it

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The attack, the deadliest in Russia for years, comes less than a week after Vladimir Putin won a presidential election, extending his 24-year presidency to at least 2030. He has outlawed anti-Kremlin protests, especially over his war in Ukraine.

The US embassy in Moscow has issued warnings for the past fortnight that a terror attack was planned in Moscow and had told US citizens to stay away from large crowds, specifically mentioning concerts.

Footage from the attack showed people shot dead lying slumped across blood-soaked benches and crumpled by the glass doors of the venue.

Another video showed people who had been waiting for a concert by the Soviet-era rock band Picnic to begin. At least 6,200 people had bought tickets to the concert.

The concert hall burns at night
Some 6,200 people had tickets for the concert - Sergei Vedyashkin/Moscow News Agency

In the video, word spreads of an attack and people start leaving. Less than a minute later there are shots in a corner of the concert hall, people start screaming and ducking for cover. One witness described his escape to Russian media. “Someone broke a window into the parking lot and we just ran out without our things, without anything, only with what we were wearing,” he said.

A state media journalist at the hall said they saw people crawling to safety. “People who were in the hall were led on the ground to protect themselves from the shooting for 15 or 20 minutes,” the journalist was quoted as saying.

Other people described locking themselves in the basement, smashing down fire doors with axes and running across broken glass to escape.

Apartment attacks in 1999

Putin has previously been accused of using terror attacks in Russia to tighten his rule. Chechen terrorists were blamed for bomb attacks on apartment blocks in Russia in 1999 that killed 300 people shortly before Putin took over as president, promising to improve security.

In 2002, Chechen terrorists captured the Nord-Ost theatre in Moscow and in 2003 Chechen rebels captured a school in Beslan in North Ossetia, southern Russia. Several hundred people were killed in both attacks, forcing Putin to promise to improve security.

Since the promotion of the Kremlin-backed Ramzan Kadyrov in 2007 as Chechnya’s leader, though, most Chechen rebels have laid down their arms.

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