Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly Moscow attack « Khabarhub
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Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly Moscow attack


23 March 2024  

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MOSCOW: The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack in Moscow in a statement posted on social media.

In a statement posted by its Aamaq news agency, the group said it attacked a large gathering of Christians in the city of Krasnogorsk on the outskirts of the Russian capital of Moscow, killing and wounding hundreds.

It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the claim.

The attack occurred in the Crocus City Hall, a large music venue, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main domestic security and counterterrorism agency.

Gunmen burst in and sprayed the crowd with gunfire, killing at least 40 people, injuring more than 100, the security service said. The venue was also set on fire.

It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the attackers. Some Russian news outlets suggested that the assailants fled before special forces and riot police arrived.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin described the attack as a “huge tragedy,” and state authorities were investigating it as terrorism.

The attack, which left the concert hall in flames with a collapsing roof, was the deadliest in Russia in years and came as the country’s war in Ukraine dragged into a third year.

Gunfire and grenades

The assailants threw explosives, triggering the massive blaze at the hall, which can accommodate 6,000, according to Russian news outlets.

Video from outside showed the building on fire, with a huge cloud of smoke rising through the night sky.

The street was lit up by the blinking blue lights of dozens of firetrucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles, as several fire helicopters buzzed overhead to dump water on the blaze.

The attack took place as crowds gathered for a performance by the famous Russian rock band Picnic.

Russian news reports said concertgoers were being evacuated, but that an unknown number could have been trapped by the blaze.

The prosecutor’s office said several men in combat fatigues entered the concert hall and fired on concertgoers.

Repeated volleys of gunfire could be heard in videos posted by Russian media and on Telegram channels.

One showed two men with rifles moving through the venue.

Another showed a man inside the auditorium and saying the assailants had set it on fire, as gunshots rang out incessantly in the background.

Other videos showed up to four attackers, armed with assault rifles and wearing caps, who were shooting screaming people at point-blank range.

Guards at the concert hall didn’t have guns, and some could have been killed at the start of the attack, Russian media reported.

International reaction

As the blaze continued to rage late into the night, statements of outrage, shock and support to those affected streamed in from around the world.

Some commentators on Russian social media questioned how authorities, who relentlessly surveil and pressure Kremlin critics, failed to identify the threat and prevent the attack.

Russian authorities said security has been tightened at Moscow’s airports, railway stations and the capital’s sprawling subway system. Moscow’s mayor canceled all mass gatherings and theaters and museums shut for the weekend.

Other Russian regions also tightened security.

The Kremlin didn’t immediately blame anyone for the attack, but some Russian lawmakers were quick to accuse Ukraine of being behind it and called for ramping up strikes.

Hours before the attack, the Russian military launched a sweeping barrage on Ukraine’s power system, crippling the country’s biggest hydroelectric plant and other energy facilities and leaving more than a million people without electricity.

Ukraine denies involvement

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said that if Kyiv’s involvement in the attack on the concert hall was proven, all those involved “must be tracked down and killed without mercy, including officials of the state that committed such outrage.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, denied Ukraine’s involvement in the concert hall attack.

“Ukraine has never resorted to the use of terrorist methods,” he posted on X. “Everything in this war will be decided only on the battlefield.”

John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Friday that he couldn’t yet speak about all the details but that “the images are just horrible. And just hard to watch.”

“Our thoughts are going to be with the victims of this terrible, terrible shooting attack,” Kirby said. “There are some moms and dads and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters who haven’t gotten the news yet. This is going to be a tough day.”

Safety statement

The attack followed a statement issued earlier this month by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that urged the Americans to avoid crowded places in the Russian capital in view of “imminent” plans by extremists to target large gatherings in Moscow, including concerts.

The warning was repeated by several other Western embassies.

Asked about the embassy’s notice issued on March 7, Kirby referred the question to the State Department, adding: “I don’t think that was related to this specific attack.”

Responding to a question about whether Washington had any prior information about the assault, Kirby responded: “I’m not aware of any advance knowledge that we had of this terrible attack.”

Putin, who extended his grip on Russia for another six years in the March 15-17 presidential vote after a sweeping crackdown on dissent, earlier this week denounced the Western warnings as an attempt to intimidate Russians.

“All that resembles open blackmail and an attempt to frighten and destabilize our society,” he said.

History of violence

Russia was shaken by a series of deadly terror attacks in the early 2000s during the fighting with separatists in the Russian province of Chechnya.

In October 2002, Chechen militants took about 800 people hostage at a Moscow theater.

Two days later, Russian special forces stormed the building and 129 hostages and 41 Chechen fighters died, most of them from effects of narcotic gas Russian forces used to subdue the attackers.

And in September 2004, about 30 Chechen militants seized a school in Beslan in southern Russia, taking hundreds of hostages.

The siege ended in a bloodbath two days later and more than 330 people, about half of them children, were killed.

 

VOA

Publish Date : 23 March 2024 07:34 AM

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