Thursday, April 25

Gunmen kill at least 60 people at Moscow concert hall, Russian officials say

Several gunmen in camouflage opened fire Friday evening at a popular concert hall on the outskirts of Moscow, killing about 60 people and wounding more than 100, Russian authorities said, making it the most serious attack deadliest in the capital region in more than a decade.

A few hours after the chaos began, the Russian National Guard said its officers were still searching for the attackers. State news agencies reported there were up to five perpetrators.

As gunshots rang out in the building housing the concert hall, one of the largest and most popular concert halls in the Moscow region, a fire broke out in the upper floors of the structure and the fire intensified after an explosion, causing the roof to collapse.

The Islamic State, through an affiliated news agency, claimed responsibility. U.S. security officials, including a senior counterterrorism official, said they believed the attack was carried out by the Islamic State in Khorasan, a branch of the terrorist group active in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Several videos posted on social media and verified by The New York Times show several people entering Crocus City Hall, a sprawling shopping and entertainment complex in the suburb of Krasnogorsk, northwest of Moscow, and shooting guns. Other videos show people running past bloodied victims lying on the ground or screaming at the sound of gunfire, while photos show bodies lined up outside the building.

A woman who gave her name only as Marina said in a text message that she was waiting in line for a concert outside in the cold around 8 p.m. when people without coats started coming out of the building in running, claiming to have heard gunshots.

“As soon as I heard automatic rifle shots, I started running too,” she said.

Video

Videos posted on social media and verified by The New York Times show gunmen entering Crocus City Hall, a concert hall and shopping center outside Moscow, and shooting at spectators waiting for a representation.creditCredit…Yulia Morozova/Reuters

The official TASS news agency reported that emergency services had dispatched helicopters to try to rescue people from the roof of the building, where flames and smoke could be seen rising. in the night sky.

At least 115 people were hospitalized after the attack, including five children, according to Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. Among the injured are 60 adult patients in serious condition, the minister said. Thirty other people were treated and released.

Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin did not immediately make any direct public statements, only issuing a statement through Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova expressing his hopes for recovery. of the injured and his gratitude to the doctors who treated them.

The Russian Investigative Committee, the national equivalent of the FBI, said she had opened criminal proceedings for a terrorist act and sent her investigators to the site. According to RIA Novosti, a special police unit was working inside the building.

John F. Kirby, a spokesperson for President Biden’s National Security Council, told reporters that the White House had “no indication at this time that Ukraine or the Ukrainians were involved.” Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office, said in a video statement that “Ukraine had absolutely nothing to do” with the attack.

On March 7, the US Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert which warned that its staff was “monitoring reports that extremists were planning to target large gatherings in Moscow, including concerts.” The statement, which said nothing about the affiliation of the extremists, warned Americans that an attack could take place in the next 48 hours.

Outside the concert hall in Moscow after Friday’s assault.Credit…Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Pro-Kremlin voices took advantage of the US embassy’s warning to portray America as trying to scare the Russians. On March 19, Mr. Putin called the statement “obvious blackmail” made with “the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.”

Friday’s attack was linked to the March 7 warning, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter. They said the United States then privately alerted Russia to intelligence it had about Islamic State activities.

Statements of condolence and outrage have come from around the world, including from Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the governments of the United States and other countries at odds with Russia. Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died last month in a Russian prison, said on social media: “All those involved in this crime must be found and brought to justice.”

The attack took place on a day when 165 missiles and drones attacked Ukraine, the US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, said. said It is “the largest attack on Ukraine’s energy network since the start of the Russian war.”

The attack began around 8 p.m. local time, minutes before the start of a sold-out concert by veteran rock band Piknik. The concert hall seats 6,200, according to its website.

“At least three people in camouflage burst into the ground floor of Crocus town hall and opened fire with automatic weapons” and threw incendiary devices, a correspondent reported on site. from RIA Novosti. “There are definitely injuries.”

In videos filmed inside the concert hall, audience members can be heard screaming and crouching as repeated gunshots echo outside the venue.

Russian emergency services said they had sent 130 vehicles to the scene and three helicopters to drop water on the fire which ravaged the upper floors. The fire was largely extinguished shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday, according to regional governor Andrei Vorobyov.

Members of the Russian National Guard secured the area.Credit…Alexander Avilov/Moscow News Agency, via Associated Press

Shootings are rare in Russia, where the state strictly regulates gun ownership. One of the deadliest events occurred in 2022, when a gunman killed 18 people and injured 23 others at a school in the city of Izhevsk.

However, attacks have struck across Russia in recent decades, events that authorities have often described as terrorism. Suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport in 2011 killed 37 people, and two coordinated suicide attacks in Moscow metro stations in 2010 killed around 40 people.

In 2004, 172 people died during the siege of a Moscow theater by Chechen separatists. Police injected a sedative gas into the theater to neutralize the attackers, but the gas killed 132 hostages.

The complex where Friday’s attack took place was developed by Azerbaijani billionaire Aras Agalarov, whose son Emin is a famous pop star. Former President Donald Trump hosted the Miss Universe pageant at the same resort in 2013, and world-famous artists like Eric Clapton, Dua Lipa and Sia have also performed there.

Alina Lobzina, Julian E. Barnes, Neil MacFarquhar And Victoria Kim reports contributed.