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US has intelligence confirming Islamic State responsibility for Russia attack, officials say

Deadly shooting at Moscow concert hall

By Steve Holland

(Reuters) -The United States has intelligence confirming Islamic State's claim of responsibility for a deadly shooting at a concert near Moscow, two U.S. officials said on Friday.

The officials said the United States had warned Russia in recent weeks about the possibility of an attack.

"Earlier this month, the U.S. government had information about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow – potentially targeting large gatherings, to include concerts – which prompted the State Department to issue a public advisory to Americans in Russia," said Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council. "The U.S. government also shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its longstanding ‘duty to warn’ policy."

At least 60 people were killed and 145 wounded on Friday when camouflage-clad gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on concertgoers near Moscow in one of the deadliest attacks on Russia in decades.

The Islamic State, the militant group that once sought control over swathes of Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack, the group's Amaq agency said on Telegram.

The death toll made it one of the worst attacks on Russia since the 2004 Beslan school siege, when Islamist militants took more than 1,000 people hostage, including hundreds of children.

"We did warn the Russians appropriately," one of the U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. embassy in Russia warned on March 8 that "extremists" had imminent plans for an attack in Moscow, hours after Russian security services said they had foiled a planned shooting at a synagogue by a cell of Islamic State.

The embassy, which has repeatedly urged all U.S. citizens to leave Russia immediately, gave no further details about the nature of the threat, but said people should avoid concerts and crowds and be aware of their surroundings.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has triggered the deepest crisis in Russia's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Kremlin, which accuses the U.S. of fighting against Russia by supporting Ukraine with money, weapons and intelligence, says relations with Washington have probably never been worse.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Sandra Maler and Gerry Doyle)