Death toll in Moscow concert hall attack rises to 133

At least 133 people have been confirmed dead in Friday’s concert hall shooting in Moscow, the Russian Investigative Committee announced on Saturday.

The official death toll has surpassed that of the Nord Ost Theatre hostage crisis in 2002. The Investigative Committee said the main causes of death were “gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation” from the giant fire that tore through the building immediately after the shooting.

The Investigative Committee announced on Saturday morning that four men suspected of involvement in the attack had been detained “near the border with Ukraine”.

Photo: Yury Gripas / Vida press / ABACA / Shutterstock

Photo: Yury Gripas / Vida press / ABACA / Shutterstock

The Federal Security Service (FSB) said that the attackers had attempted to escape in the direction of the Russian-Ukrainian border, adding that they were planning to cross the border and had contacts on the Ukrainian side, TASS reported.

FSB director Alexander Bortnikov briefed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday morning and informed him that 11 people had been detained, “including four terrorists”, in the aftermath of the attack.

Citing unnamed US security officials, The New York Times reported that a branch of the Islamic State terrorist group “active in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran” might have been behind the attack, though no official information about the likely identity of the perpetrators has been provided by the Russian authorities.

On Friday night, multiple armed men entered the Crocus City Hall, an entertainment complex in suburban Moscow, and opened fire at people gathered there for a concert. A fire broke out on the upper floor of the concert venue as the shooting continued, with several explosions reported before the roof eventually collapsed.

People were seen evacuating from the building, but some were believed to have been trapped inside as the fire spread through the building. The attackers managed to flee the scene.

The attack came two weeks after the US Embassy in Moscow warned of an imminent and heightened threat of terror attacks in the Russian capital in places of mass gatherings, including concert venues. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has ordered the cancelation of all cultural and sporting events planned in the Russian capital over the weekend, SHOT reported.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stressed in a video message that the terror attack had nothing to do with Ukraine.

A representative of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), a paramilitary group of Russian fighters based in Ukraine, has also categorically denied the group’s involvement. “Obviously, we have nothing to do with this,” a RVC representative told Novaya Europe.

Former State Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov told Novaya Europe that the Freedom of Russia Legion he represents was also in no way involved with the shooting, but said he thought it likely the authorities would still try to blame them. “I think we will be blamed for this, but it’s obvious that no forces that work with us are in any way involved in any actions directed against civilians. It is no less obvious that what has been done has been done by Putin.”

Videos emerging online on Saturday appeared to show the two suspected gunmen being interrogated by Russian law enforcement having been apprehended by police after fleeing into the forest to evade arrest.

One of the men detained in the Bryansk region said that he had been promised 500,000 rubles (€5,000) for carrying out the attack and had been receiving instructions via the Telegram messaging app.

Telegram channel 112 reported that all the suspects detained following the Moscow concert hall attack were dual citizens of Russia and a “neighbouring country”, having acquired Russian citizenship through migration. The Russian Interior Ministry has disproved these reports, saying that all four suspects are foreign citizens.

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