ISIS claims responsibility for attack at Moscow-area concert venue that left at least 60 dead

ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack at a popular concert hall complex near Moscow Friday after assailants stormed the venue with guns and incendiary devices, killing at least 60 people and injuring 145.

The terror group took responsibility for the attack in a short statement published by ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq on Telegram on Friday. It did not provide evidence to support the claim.

Video footage from the Crocus City Hall shows the vast complex, which is home to both the music hall and a shopping center, on fire with smoke billowing into the air. State-run RIA Novosti reported the armed individuals “opened fire with automatic weapons” and “threw a grenade or an incendiary bomb, which started a fire.” They then “allegedly fled in a white Renault car,” the news agency said.

State media Russia 24 reported the roof of the venue has partially collapsed.

The fire had been brought largely under control more than six hours later. “There are still some pockets of fire, but the fire has been mostly eliminated,” Moscow governor Andrey Vorobyov said on Telegram.

The deadliest terror attack on Moscow in decades, Friday’s assault came less than a week after President Vladimir Putin won a stage-managed election by an overwhelming majority to secure another term in office, tightening his grip on the country he has ruled since the turn of the century.

With attention focused on the country’s war with neighboring Ukraine, Putin had trumpeted a message of national security before Russians went to the polls.

The carnage broke out before a concert by the band Picnic, according to Russia 24.

“Unidentified people in camouflage broke into Crocus City Hall and started shooting before the start of the concert,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said, cited by TASS.

This screen grab from video shows armed men inside the Crocus City Hall concert venue in Russia's Moscow region. CNN can not verify whether these are armed attackers or Russian authorities moving in. - Social media
This screen grab from video shows armed men inside the Crocus City Hall concert venue in Russia's Moscow region. CNN can not verify whether these are armed attackers or Russian authorities moving in. - Social media

Video footage showed panic as the attack unfolded, with crowds of people huddling together, screaming and ducking behind cushioned seats as gunshots started echoing in the vast hall. One group sheltering next to a large wall of windows outside the concert venue were forced to break them to escape the gunfire, video obtained by CNN shows.

Footage geolocated by CNN shows an armed individual starting at least one fire inside the venue. The individual is seen carrying something in their hand and, as they walk off-screen, a bright flash of light from a large flame is seen in the video.

A SWAT team was called to the area and more than 70 ambulance teams and doctors assisted victims.

One hundred and forty-five people have been hospitalized, TASS reported. Sixty people are in a “serious condition.”

According to the Kremlin, Putin was informed about the attack and is being kept updated on measures on the ground.

The president on Saturday wished those injured in the attack a speedy recovery, the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency said. He also “conveyed his gratitude to the doctors,” RIA added.

Around 100 people were evacuated from the building by firefighters, TASS reported.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin called the attack a “terrible tragedy.”

“My condolences to the loved ones of the victims. I gave orders to provide all necessary assistance to everyone who suffered during the incident,” Sobyanin said in a statement.

Sobyanin said on Telegram that he was canceling all sports, cultural and other public events in Moscow this weekend.

Picnic’s manager told state media that the performers were unharmed.

Russian singer Shaman said he would pay for the funerals of the victims and treatment for those injured.

“We are all one big family. And in a family there is no such thing as somebody else’s grief,” the singer, known for his nationalistic views, said in a video posted on the Russian social media network Vkontakte to his more than 600,000 followers.

“My people, any troubles and misfortunes have always united our country. They have made Russia tougher and stronger. It will not be possible to frighten and break us this time either.”

US had warned of potential attack

Earlier this month, the US embassy in Russia said it was “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow,” including concerts. The embassy warned US citizens to avoid large gatherings. On Friday, following reports of the Crocus City Hall attack, it advised US citizens not to travel to Russia.

Starting in November, there has been a steady stream of intelligence that ISIS-K was determined to attack in Russia, according to two sources familiar with the information.

ISIS-K stands for ISIS-Khorasan, the terror organization’s affiliate that is active in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US government had had information about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow – potentially targeting large gatherings, to include concerts – and that this is what prompted the State Department to issue the public advisory.

“The US government also shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its longstanding ‘duty to warn’ policy,” Watson said.

In a speech Tuesday, Putin had blasted the American warnings as “provocative,” saying “these actions resemble outright blackmail and the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.”

In March alone, Russian authorities had thwarted several ISIS-related incidents, according to RIA. On March 3, RIA reported that six ISIS members were killed in a counter-terrorist operation in the Ingush Karabulak; on March 7, it said security services had uncovered and “neutralized” a cell of the banned organization Vilayat Khorasan in the Kaluga region, whose members were planning an attack on a synagogue in Moscow; and on March 20, it said the commander of an ISIS combat group had been detained.

A US official said Friday that Washington had no reason to doubt ISIS’ claim that it was responsible for the latest attack.

International response

Ukraine, which has been embroiled in a war with Russia for more than two years, denied any involvement in the attack.

“Ukraine has never resorted to the use of terrorist methods,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote, in part, in a post on X. He said he believed Russia would use the attack to justify the ongoing conflict and scale up operations as part of “military propaganda” in Ukraine.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres late Friday condemned “in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack” according to a statement released by his deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq.

“The secretary-general conveys his deep condolences to the bereaved families and the people and the government of the Russian Federation. He wishes those injured a speedy recovery,” the statement said.

In a separate statement, the UN Security Council called the attack “heinous and cowardly.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping offered his condolences to Putin on Saturday “over the serious terrorist attack that caused heavy casualties,” according to a report from Chinese state media.

French President Emmanuel Macron also condemned the attack. “France expresses its solidarity with the victims, their loved ones and all the Russian people,” the Elysee Palace said, AFP and Reuters reported.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman both also denounced the attack.

Correction: This story has been updated after an earlier version incorrectly stated that Shaman is a singer in the band Picnic.

CNN’s Eva Rothenberg, Paul Murphy and Hannah Strange contributed to this reporting.

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