President Putin Accuses Ukraine In Russia Terror Attack As Death Toll Reaches 133

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President Putin Accuses Ukraine In Russia Terror Attack As Death Toll Reaches 133

Rescuers continued to extract additional bodies from the debris of a concert venue near Moscow on March 23, as the death toll from a brutal attack, attributed to the Islamic State (IS) militant group, climbed to 133.

Security authorities disclosed that four suspected gunmen linked to Russia’s most severe terrorist atrocity in almost two decades had been apprehended.

Russian authorities specified that all suspects were foreign nationals, with a total of 11 individuals detained in connection to the incident. President Vladimir Putin unequivocally denounced the assault as a “bloody, barbaric terrorist attack” in a prerecorded video message disseminated by the Kremlin, stressing the urgency of thwarting potential future acts of violence orchestrated by the perpetrators.

Following repeated condemnations from U.S. officials characterizing the attack as “heinous,” the White House identified the Islamic State as a “common terrorist adversary.” The aftermath of the assault at Crocus City Hall, where armed assailants in camouflage attire stormed the premises and opened fire on attendees awaiting the commencement of a concert, left search teams scouring the wreckage for survivors. Health authorities reported over 120 individuals sustaining injuries of varying severity, with many still hospitalized.

In his recorded address, Putin echoed earlier insinuations made by Russian officials regarding alleged Ukrainian involvement, alleging that the four apprehended suspects had attempted to flee towards Ukraine. He suggested that Ukrainian authorities had facilitated their escape across the border, though no corroborating evidence was provided. Ukrainian officials have consistently refuted any allegations of complicity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Putin of trying to “blame someone else.” Alluding to previous violent incidents in Russia, he said, “It already happened. And there were blown up houses, and shootings, and explosions. And they always blame others.”

Shortly after the attack, the Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility and on March 23, released pixelated images of four individuals it alleged were the perpetrators. Describing the assault as a significant strike, IS stated that the attackers, armed with assault rifles, a pistol, knives, and incendiary devices, targeted “Christians” as part of their campaign against nations perceived as adversaries of Islam.

The targeted venue, situated in an upscale district on the outskirts of Moscow, is renowned for hosting performances by prominent Russian musicians. The Investigative Committee reported that the casualties resulted from either gunshot wounds or suffocation caused by combustion materials, with the death toll expected to rise. The attackers ignited an unspecified flammable substance within the premises, according to the committee’s findings.

Acknowledging the bravery of an individual who courageously intervened to thwart one of the assailants while protecting his wife and others, the Russian Investigative Committee announced its intention to honor him for his selfless actions.

Despite ongoing investigations, the identities and motives of the attackers remain uncertain. Aleksandr Bortnikov, the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), confirmed that 11 individuals, including four suspected gunmen, had been apprehended.

Reports circulated by unnamed officials and Telegram channels linked to security services suggested that some of the assailants might have been Tajik nationals or Russian citizens of Tajik descent. However, these claims were refuted by Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry, which provided detailed information to counter the allegations.

Footage aired by Russia’s state broadcaster, Channel One TV, depicted the interrogation of the detained suspects and showcased a white Renault vehicle purportedly used in their escape attempt. The capture of the suspects reportedly occurred in Khatsun, as depicted in daylight footage broadcasted by the station.

The attack unfolded at approximately 7:30 p.m. local time when individuals clad in camouflage attire, armed with automatic rifles, arrived at the venue in a minivan. Russian media indicated the involvement of up to five assailants. Eyewitnesses recounted that the shooting commenced shortly before the scheduled start of the concert.

 “It was supposed to be starting when we heard something which I thought were fireworks or gunshots inside the venue,” the eyewitness, identified only as Dave, said in a phone interview. “The moment after, we saw beneath us a stream of people running inside the hall. After that, gunshots were already heard inside [the hall]. Of course, panic started on the balcony too. People didn’t know where to run.”

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