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Attack near Moscow: More than 130 dead, many unanswered questions

Attack near Moscow: More than 130 dead, many unanswered questions
Flowers and stuffed animals will be placed near Crocus City Hall in memory of the more than 130 dead.
People come to light candles.

The terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) published pixelated photos of the alleged attackers on Saturday after claiming responsibility for the attack on the Crocus City Hall concert hall. Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, claimed after the arrest of several men that there was a trail leading to Ukraine.

Russian propagandists also did not spare themselves with unsubstantiated accusations towards Ukraine, against which Russia has been waging a brutal war of aggression for more than two years. Kyiv, for its part, has clearly rejected any involvement.

  • Also read: Eleven arrests after attack near Moscow

The day after the horrific crime in the city of Krasnogorsk, northwest of Moscow, is gray and cloudy. Heavily armed security forces are patrolling in front of the concert hall, which until recently was a popular venue for Russian capital residents. Light drizzle keeps falling. Several survivors returned to Crocus City Hall Saturday to mourn and leave flowers. Instead of advertising, the image of a candle flickers on light boards and below it the inscription: “We mourn. March 22nd, 2024.”

Video: Analysis of the attack

When the armed attackers stormed the concert hall, she was standing with her husband in one of the upper visitors’ stands, said 30-year-old Margarita. “We wanted to take a souvenir photo.” At first, she remembered, she thought the explosion noises were loud applause for the artists. “But it kept banging. I immediately understood that something was wrong.”

The number of deaths in the attack rose to at least 133 on Saturday, including at least 3 children. The Moscow Investigative Committee said emergency services found more bodies while clearing away the rubble in the center’s concert hall. The authorities also estimated that more than 100 people were injured. The search for possible additional victims is ongoing, it said. Eleven suspects were arrested, at least four of them were directly involved in the attack on the event center, said FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov.

Putin suspects Ukrainian involvement

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of Ukraine’s alleged involvement in the terrorist attack in a speech broadcast on state television on Saturday afternoon. Referring to four of the arrested men, he said: “They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where a window had been prepared for them to cross the border.” Russia’s domestic secret service FSB had previously reported on arrests in the Bryansk border region.

Ukraine, against which Russia has been waging a brutal war of aggression for more than two years, has clearly rejected rumors of involvement. Ukrainian military intelligence countered Putin, pointing out that the border had long been mined. There is also a letter of responsibility from the terrorist militia Islamic State, which has already been classified as genuine by several experts. Nevertheless, many questions remain unanswered. Russian propagandists, in turn, quickly claimed that Ukraine was behind the bloody crime. They did not provide any evidence of this.

Secret services had warned of an attack

The secret services of the USA and other Western countries had already warned of an impending attack at the beginning of March. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow wrote on March 7 that it was monitoring reports that extremists had imminent plans to attack large gatherings in Moscow, including concerts. She urged compatriots to avoid crowds and otherwise behave carefully.

Putin dismissed the warnings as a Western provocation. The aim of such warnings from the West is to destabilize the situation in Russia, he claimed in a speech at the FSB earlier this week.

The IS propaganda channel Amak published a picture on Saturday with four people whose faces had been blurred out. The fighters, armed with assault rifles, pistols and bombs, dealt a “severe blow” to Russia, the statement said. The attack targeted “thousands of Christians in a music hall.” ISIS fights followers of Christianity and regards them as infidels.

Information is not yet secured

However, Russian investigators have not commented on this. Reports that the suspected perpetrators are citizens of the Central Asian former Soviet republic of Tajikistan are not certain. The passports found in their getaway car could be fake. Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan, is known as a haven for Islamist terrorists.

So far, serious IS attacks on Russian targets have been rare. However, the Islamists have also had Moscow’s politics on their radar for several years. According to experts, Russia’s military deployment in Syria is particularly a thorn in the side of the group. Putin is the most important ally of Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad. After the outbreak of the civil war, IS controlled large parts of eastern Syria and northern Iraq between 2014 and 2017. A regional offshoot of the terrorist militia is also active in the Caucasus, in Russia especially in the Muslim-majority republics of Dagestan and Chechnya. Globally, IS has repeatedly called on its sympathizers to fight against non-Muslims.

People come to light candles.
Image: KAREN MINASYAN (AFP)

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People come to light candles.
Image: KAREN MINASYAN (AFP)

Source: Nachrichten

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