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Moscow Concert Hall Attack Leaves At Least 133 Dead; ISIS Reportedly Claims Responsibility – Update

UPDATE, SATURDAY AM: Authorities now say 133 people are dead in the concert hall attack. Russia’s top state investigative agency said Saturday they have arrested 11 suspects, four directly involved in the onslaught.

“All four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attack, all those who shot and killed people, were found and detained,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them from the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.”

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He declared Sun., March 24, a day of mourning.

UPDATED with details and White House statement: The Associated Press, CNN and other outlets are reporting that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack at a Moscow concert hall that left least 40 people are dead and 100 others wounded. AP reported that the claim was posted by the group’s Aamaq news agency, but “it was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the claim.”

In the attack, multiple gunmen attacked a concert hall in Moscow today, Russia’s Federal Security Service reports. The Associated Press said authorities are investigating the incident as terrorism — the country’s worst in several years.

Photos and video from the scene show Crocus City Hall engulfed in flames, and local officials said the roof was in danger of collapsing. They also said more than 100 people had been evacuated from the 6,200-capacity venue, which was hosting a concert by the popular Russian rock band Piknik. News agency Tass said the band members were not injured.

Crocus City Hall has ties with western acts, as well. Donald Trump held the Miss Universe pageant there in 2013. Eric Clapton, Dua Lipa and Sia have performed there.

The Russian culture ministry has canceled events across the country.

The attack comes days after Russian President Vladimir Putin solidified his grip on power in what detractors said was a choreographed election.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault in Krasnogorsk, a suburb on the northwestern outskirts of Moscow, and the assailants have not been caught. The attack carried out by several people who sprayed the hall with gunfire and threw explosives, which set it ablaze, Russian officials said.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said that if Ukraine or any of its citizens were involved in the attack, the perpetrators “must be tracked down and killed without mercy, including officials of the state that committed such outrage.”

Ukraine has already denied any such connection.

“Ukraine certainly has nothing to do with the shooting/explosions in the Crocus City Hall,” adviser to Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on X. “Everything in this war will be decided only on the battlefield.”

White House Spokesman John Kirby said that “the images are just horrible and just hard to watch. Our thoughts, obviously, are going to be with the victims of this terrible, terrible shooting attack.”

He added that there was “no indication at this time that Ukraine or Ukrainians were involved in this shooting.”

On March 7, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow put out an advisory saying that it “is monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts, and U.S. citizens should be advised to avoid large gatherings over the next 48 hours.” Today it advised U.S. citizens “to avoid the area [of the terrorist attack] and follow instructions of local authorities.”

The incident recalls the 2002 attack in Moscow, when a group of what Russian officials said were Chechen terrorists took some 850 people hostage and killed more than 170 people at the Dubrovka Theater. It ended with Russian officials filling the hall’s ventilation system with a chemical agent, leading to the deaths of all of the attackers — said to be as many as 50 — and more than 100 hostages. Many died from gas poisoning and others were shot dead, the BBC reported at the time.

There have been many questions left unanswered about that 2002 attack, with some claiming the Russian government may have been behind the atrocity as a way to justify the war in Chechnya.

One of those was dissident Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after being poisoned with polonium-210 in London. A public inquiry in the U.K. later found that Litvinenko’s murder was carried out by two men, one of whom was a former member of Russia’s Federal Protective Service, and that they were likely acting under the direction of the FSB, successor to the KGB, with Putin’s approval.

Friday’s attack comes nearly six years after a subway explosion in St. Petersburg that killed at least 15 people and wounded 45.

In November 2015, Islamic terrorists stormed the Bataclan concert hall in Paris as part of coordinated attacks around the city. Ninety people died in the venue shootings and 40 others were killed around the French capital that night.

Ted Johnson and Tom Tapp contributed to this report.

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