Russia is in national mourning following the massacre at a concert hall near Moscow

Russians are called to gather for a day of national mourning on Sunday. Friday's attack on a concert hall near Moscow was the bloodiest claimed by IS in Europe, with more than 130 people killed. Research continues in the ruins of the fire-ravaged building.

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Russia is observing a national day of mourning on Sunday, March 24, following the massacre at a concert hall in Moscow, allegedly by the Islamic State (IS).

“The whole country is in mourning for those who lost their loved ones in this inhumane tragedy,” Russian public television channel Rossiya 24 said on Sunday morning. It broadcast images from a large digital panel mounted on the walls of the stricken concert hall: candles on a black background and the inscription “Crocus City Hall. 03/22/2024. We are in mourning …”.

Individuals burst into Crocus City Hall on Friday evening before opening fire on the crowd with automatic weapons, dousing it with flammable liquid, killing at least 133 people, according to investigators.

Condemning an act of “barbaric terrorism”, Vladimir Putin vowed to punish the perpetrators in a televised address on Saturday. The Russian president announced that “four perpetrators” of the attack had been arrested “as they headed toward Ukraine,” without mentioning the IS claim.

“11 people, including four terrorists involved in the attack, have been arrested,” the Kremlin announced earlier. Officials said the four “foreign nationals” were captured in the Bryansk region on the border between Ukraine and Belarus.

Continue to search the ruins

The attack, which took place at a concert hall in Krasnogorsk, northwest of the Russian capital, was the worst attack in Russia in two decades and the bloodiest claimed by ISIS in Europe.

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On Sunday morning, the death toll stood at 133 and 152 were injured, according to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry.

The search in the wreckage of the building, which was destroyed by fire and part of its roof collapsed, is ongoing and could take several days. Heavy equipment arrived at the site on Saturday evening to remove damaged structures and remove debris, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Putin did not address the jihadists' claim

ISIS, which Russia is fighting in Syria, is active in the Russian Caucasus, having already carried out attacks in the country since the late 2010s. But the group never claimed responsibility for an attack of such magnitude.

In one of its Telegram accounts, IS said on Friday evening that the attack was carried out by four of its members and that it was part of “the context (…) of the raging war between the group and the warring nations. Islam.”

According to a site group specializing in counter-terrorism research, a video shot by the attackers at a concert hall near Moscow was broadcast on social media accounts commonly used by ISIS.

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The one-minute-and-31-second video shows several men armed with assault rifles and knives, with blurred faces and hoarse voices, in the lobby of the Crocus City Hall concert hall in Krasnogorsk.

The attackers fired several bursts, many lifeless bodies were scattered on the ground, and the start of a fire could be seen in the background.

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However, neither Vladimir Putin nor the Security Services (FSB) have blamed the jihadist group.

Ukrainian denial

The FSB said the suspects had “valid connections on the Ukrainian side” and planned to flee to that country, without providing further details about the nature of these connections or proof of their existence.

“Ukraine has nothing to do with this incident,” insisted Myklo Podoliak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, dismissing the “absurd” accusations.

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Margarita Simonyan, head of public media RT, released videos showing the confessions of the two suspects during their interrogations, in which they did not mention the sponsor. AFP could not confirm their authenticity.

Despite IS's claim, many questions remain unanswered. According to Russian media and member of parliament Alexander Kinstein, some of the suspects are from Tajikistan. Officials in the Central Asian country said they had “no confirmation from the Russian authorities” on the matter.

With AFP

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