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Putin pledges to hold accountable perpetrators of Russia concert massacre

11 arrested, including 4 gunmen. Death toll officially at 133. FSB says gunmen heading to Ukraine border. Ukraine denies involvement, Islamic State claims attack.

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Moscow, March 23 (The Street Press) – On Saturday, Russia announced that it had captured all four gunmen believed to be responsible for the tragic shooting at a concert hall near Moscow. President Vladimir Putin assured the public that those responsible for the attack would be found and held accountable. While the militant Islamist group Islamic State claimed responsibility, there are suggestions that Russia is investigating a potential connection to Ukraine. However, Ukrainian officials have strongly denied any involvement from Kyiv.

According to Moscow regional Governor Andrei Vorobyov, rescuers have recovered 133 bodies from the debris within the last 24 hours, while medical teams are battling to save the lives of 107 individuals. State TV editor Margarita Simonyan mentioned a toll of 143 earlier, although no specific source was cited. In a televised speech, President Putin announced that 11 individuals, including the four gunmen, had been apprehended. He mentioned that they attempted to flee and headed towards Ukraine, where initial information suggests they were provided with assistance to cross the border.

The FSB security service of Russia stated that the gunmen had connections in Ukraine and were apprehended close to the border. They mentioned that the suspects were being transported to Moscow. However, neither President Putin nor the FSB provided any evidence publicly regarding a link with Ukraine, despite the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion 25 months ago. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy characterized Putin’s behavior as typical, accusing him and “other thugs” of attempting to shift blame.

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Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov emphasized to Reuters that Ukraine had no involvement in the terrorist attack, clarifying that Ukraine is focused on defending its sovereignty from Russian invaders and engaging in military operations against occupiers’ forces and military targets, not civilians.

Islamic State has a significant incentive to target Russia, particularly due to Russia’s intervention in Syria’s civil war in 2015. Security analysts noted that the claim by IS appeared credible, as it aligns with the pattern of previous attacks carried out by the group.

PUTIN ADDRESS

Putin characterized the enemy as “international terrorism” and expressed readiness to collaborate with any state interested in combating it. He vowed that all those responsible for the crime would face fair and inevitable punishment, regardless of their identities or affiliations. Putin affirmed Russia’s commitment to identifying and holding accountable everyone behind the terrorists who orchestrated the attack.

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Senior Russian lawmaker Andrei Kartapolov stated that if Ukraine was found to be involved, Russia would respond with a resolute and clear action on the battlefield.

Western nations, including the United States, which has had strained relations with Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine, condemned the attack and expressed sympathy for the Russian people affected. Arab nations and many former Soviet republics also conveyed shock and offered their condolences.

The White House stated that the U.S. government had shared information with Russia earlier in the month regarding a planned attack in Moscow. A public advisory was issued to Americans in Russia on March 7, with the assertion that Islamic State was solely responsible for the attack.

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson emphasized on Saturday that there was no involvement from Ukraine in the incident.

However, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, mentioned on Sunday that the U.S. had not provided any specific information to the embassy prior to the shooting. According to Russia’s TASS state news agency, Antonov stated, “No specific information, nothing was given to us.” He also noted that there had been no communication after the attack.

Verified footage captured camouflage-clad gunmen opening fire with automatic weapons inside the Crocus City Hall near Moscow. The video depicted individuals initially taking their seats before chaos erupted, with attendees rushing for the exits amidst the sound of gunfire and screams.

Investigators revealed that some victims succumbed to gunshot wounds, while others perished in a large fire that engulfed the complex. Reports indicated that the gunmen ignited the blaze using petrol from canisters they carried in their rucksacks.

Amidst the panic, people fled the scene. According to Baza, a news outlet with reliable connections in Russian security and law enforcement, 28 bodies were discovered in a toilet and 14 on a staircase. The outlet described heartbreaking scenes of many mothers found embracing their children.

Russian lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein reported that the assailants escaped in a Renault vehicle, which was spotted by police in the Bryansk region, approximately 340 km (210 miles) southwest of Moscow on Friday night. He mentioned that a pursuit ensued after they failed to comply with orders to stop.

Khinshtein further stated that a pistol, a magazine for an assault rifle, and passports from Tajikistan were discovered in the vehicle. Tajikistan, a predominantly Muslim Central Asian state, was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

According to BBC News’ Russian Service, an unnamed source familiar with the security response indicated that one attacker was killed in the concert hall, while another was neutralized in the car in Bryansk. The BBC claimed to have obtained a copy of the deceased man’s passport, identifying him as a 30-year-old citizen of Tajikistan.

SUSPECT INTERROGATED

TV editor Simonyan released a video depicting one of the suspects, a young, bearded man, undergoing aggressive interrogation by the roadside. In the video, the man, visibly trembling, responded in heavily accented Russian to a series of abrupt questions. He stated that he had flown from Turkey on March 4 and had received instructions via Telegram from unidentified individuals to carry out the attack in exchange for money.

During the questioning, the man was initially shown lying on his stomach with his hands bound behind his back, with a figure in camouflage standing over him. Later, he was forced onto his knees.

Another individual, with cuts and bruises on his face, was depicted being interrogated through an interpreter while seated on a bench with his hands and feet bound.

The Kremlin announced that Putin had engaged in discussions with the leaders of Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, during which all parties affirmed their commitment to collaborating in the fight against terrorism.

GUNFIRE AND SCREAMS

Long queues formed in Moscow on Saturday as people lined up to donate blood in response to the tragic events. Health officials reported that over 120 individuals were wounded in the attack.

In response to the incident, Russia heightened security measures at airports, transportation hubs, and throughout the capital, while large public gatherings were canceled across the country.

The Islamic State, which previously aimed to seize control of territories in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq agency on Telegram. The group stated that its fighters carried out the assault on the outskirts of Moscow, resulting in casualties and significant destruction before withdrawing safely to their bases. However, the statement provided no further details.

On Saturday, the Islamic State released a photograph purportedly showing the four attackers involved in the incident, along with footage it claimed to be of the attack. The video, approximately 90 seconds long, depicted one of the gunmen firing at multiple victims upon entering what appeared to be the concert hall.

A U.S. official confirmed that the United States possessed intelligence supporting the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the shooting. Speaking anonymously, the official stated that Washington had appropriately warned Moscow in recent weeks about the possibility of an attack.

The attack, located approximately 20 km (12 miles) from the Kremlin, occurred just two weeks after the U.S. embassy in Russia issued a warning regarding imminent plans for an attack by “extremists” in Moscow.

Just hours before the warning from the embassy, the FSB announced that it had thwarted an attack on a Moscow synagogue orchestrated by Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-Khorasan or ISIS-K. This group aims to establish a caliphate spanning across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran.

Putin altered the trajectory of the Syrian civil war in 2015 when Russia intervened, providing support to President Bashar al-Assad against both the opposition and Islamic State.

Colin Clarke of the Soufan Center, a research group based in New York, noted, “ISIS-K has been fixated on Russia for the past two years, frequently criticizing Putin in its propaganda.”

The broader Islamic State organization has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks across various regions, including the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Europe, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

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SourceReuters
Sk Sahiluddin
Sk Sahiluddinhttps://www.thestreetpress.com
Sk Sahiluddin is a seasoned journalist and media professional with a passion for delivering accurate and impactful news coverage to a global audience. As the Editor of The Street Press, he plays a pivotal role in shaping the editorial direction and ensuring the highest journalistic standards are upheld.
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