Gunmen kill over 130 at Crocus City Hall in Moscow – Islamic State claim responsibility

Moscow concert attack
There is a massive emergency services operation outside the venue (Image: Reuters)

Three children are among more than 90 people killed after gunmen entered a concert venue near Moscow and opened fired on the crowd – with Islamic State claiming responsibility for the atrocity.

The attackers, wearing combat fatigues, also threw explosives causing a huge blaze at the 6,200-seat Crocus City Hall in the city of Krasnogorsk, 15 miles to the west of the capital.

The number of dead has risen to 133, Russia’s investigative committee said just before 8.30am on Saturday and added this was likely to rise further.

At least 100 people were also injured in the assault on Friday evening, shortly before the Soviet-era rock group Picnic was due to perform. Of those more than 100 remain in hospital.

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Footage taken inside the auditorium showed several insurgents firing automatic weapons as people crouched and hid behind seats.

A Russian National Guard serviceman in front of Crocus City Hall. Pic: AP
The attack triggered a major fire that engulfed the building. (Image: AP)

 

Video footage also showed concert-goers fleeing for the exits as the sound of shooting echoed over screams.

Russian investigators have published pictures of a Kalashnikov automatic weapon, ammunition vests with multiple spare magazines and bags of spent bullet casings.

In the aftermath, flames leapt into the sky, and plumes of black smoke rose above the venue as hundreds of blue lights
from emergency vehicles illuminated the night.

Helicopters sought to douse the fire that engulfed the building and caused parts of the roof to collapse.

It was not immediately clear what happened to the militants after the raid, but Russian politician Alexander Khinshtein said on Telegram two suspects were detained in the Bryansk region following a car chase.

The FSB has since said as many as 11 suspects have been detained in total, via the Russian state news agency, Tass. Four of the arrested suspects are thought to have been directly involved in the attack, the FSB believe.

A massive blaze is seen at the Crocus City Hall. Pic: AP
Thick black smoke rises into the sky from the Crocus City Hall concert venue. (Image: AP)

 

A view of the Crocus City Hall burned after a terrorist attack is seen on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, March 23, 2024. Assailants burst into a large concert hall in Moscow on Friday and sprayed the crowd with gunfire, killing and injuring multiple people and setting fire to the venue in a brazen attack just days after President Vladimir Putin cemented his grip on power in a highly orchestrated electoral landslide. (AP Photo/Vitaly Smolnikov)
Daylight revealed the extent of the damage. (Image: AP)

 

Putin dismisses US warnings as ‘blackmail’

A US official said Washington had warned Moscow in recent weeks of the possibility of an attack.

National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson said: “Earlier this month, the US government had information about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow – potentially targeting large gatherings, to include concerts – which prompted the State Department to issue a public advisory to Americans in Russia.

“The US government also shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its longstanding ‘duty to warn’ policy.”

In this photo taken from video released by Investigative Committee of Russia on Saturday, March 23, 2024, a Kalashnikov assault rifle lies on the ground as Investigators from the Investigative Committee of Russia together with the operational units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB, work the scene after a terrorist attack on the building of the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia. Several gunmen burst into a big concert hall in Moscow and fired automatic weapons at the crowd, injuring an unspecified number of people and setting a massive blaze in an apparent terror attack days after President Vladimir Putin cemented his grip on the country in a highly orchestrated electoral landslide. (Investigative Committee of Russia via AP)
A Kalashnikov assault rifle lies on the floor in the wake of the deadly raid. (Image: AP)

 

The attack comes days after Russian President Vladimir Putin told the board of the Federal Security Service that “Western structures” had been engaging in “outright blackmail” when they warned Moscow of potential terrorist attacks.

He has repeatedly warned foreign powers were seeking to sow chaos inside Russia.

While US intelligence has confirmed¬†Islamic State’s¬†claim of responsibility for the massacre, Russia has yet to say who it thinks is responsible.

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Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it was a “bloody terrorist attack” that the entire world should
condemn.

The US was among many countries to express condolences, while Ukraine has denied any involvement.

The United Nations Security Council has condemned what it called a “heinous and cowardly terrorist attack”.

Russian authorities stand guard. Pic: Reuters
Security was tightened across the capital following the atrocity. (Image: Reuters)

 

Why would Islamic State attack Russia?

Friday’s attack was not the first time Russia has been targeted by Islamist terror, but it was the deadliest in the country since the 2004 Beslan school siege – when Islamist militants took more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children, hostage.

In October 2002, Chechen militants took around 800 people hostage at a theatre in Moscow which was stormed by Russian special forces two days later, leaving 129 hostages and 41 Chechen fighters dead, most from the effects of the gas Russian forces used to subdue the attackers.

The latest atrocity follows Russia’s intervention against Islamic State in recent years.

Mr Putin changed the course of the Syrian civil war by intervening in 2015, supporting President Bashar al Assad
against the opposition and IS.

In recent weeks the FSB said it had foiled an attack on a Moscow synagogue by an IS affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K, which has frequently criticised the Russian leader in its propaganda.

IS claimed its insurgents had attacked the concert venue on Friday “killing and wounding hundreds and causing great destruction to the place before they withdrew to their bases safely”.

In response to the outrage, Russia tightened security at airports and transport hubs across the capital, while all major public events were cancelled nationwide.

Mr Putin, who was re-elected for a new six-year term as president on Sunday after a controversial vote, is being regularly updated on the attack response, according to the Kremlin.

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said: “A terrible tragedy occurred in the shopping centre Crocus City today.

“I am sorry for the loved ones of the victims.”

Source:  Sky News news.sky.com

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