Russian Officials Report Death of Over 60 Individuals at Moscow Concert Hall by Gunmen

According to U.S. officials, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, marking it as one of the deadliest incidents in Russia’s capital region in over a decade.

Here’s the most recent update on the incident in Russia.

Smoke billows from the engulfed Crocus City Hall concert venue in Moscow following a significant assault on Friday. [Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

Multiple gunmen clad in camouflage attire unleashed gunfire at a popular concert venue on the outskirts of Moscow on Friday night. The F.S.B., Russia’s top security agency, reported approximately 60 fatalities and over 100 injuries, marking it as the deadliest attack in the capital region in over a decade.

As gunshots echoed through the concert hall building, one of Moscow’s largest music venues, flames erupted on its upper floors, intensifying after an explosion, as per RIA Novosti.

The Islamic State, via an affiliated news agency, claimed responsibility. U.S. security officials, including a senior counterterrorism official, attributed the attack to the Islamic State in Khorasan, a branch active in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, speaking anonymously due to lack of authorization to discuss publicly.

Various videos on social media, verified by The New York Times, depict individuals entering Crocus City Hall, a vast shopping and entertainment complex in suburban Krasnogorsk, northwest of Moscow, and firing rifles. Additional footage shows panicked individuals navigating past injured victims amidst gunshots, with images capturing bodies outside the venue.

A witness named Marina, recounting her experience, described how she heard gunshots while waiting in line for a concert, prompting her to flee along with others who had sensed danger.

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

According to the state news agency TASS, emergency services deployed helicopters to rescue individuals from the burning building’s roof, where flames and smoke were visible in the night sky. By around 10 p.m. local time, RIA Novosti reported that the roof near the concert stage was collapsing.

Even hours after the chaos erupted, the Russian national guard continued searching for attackers and evacuating people from the complex. State media outlets indicated there may have been up to five assailants.

Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko reported that at least 115 people, including five children, were hospitalized due to the Moscow concert hall attack. Of these, 60 adults are in serious condition, while 30 have already been treated and discharged.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, akin to the F.B.I., initiated a criminal case for a terrorist act and deployed investigators to the scene. RIA Novosti mentioned the presence of a specialized police unit operating within the building.

By Leanne Abraham

John F. Kirby, spokesperson for President Biden’s National Security Council, informed reporters that the White House currently has “no indication” of Ukrainian involvement in the attack. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office, echoed this sentiment in a video statement, stating that “Ukraine has absolutely nothing to do” with the incident.

On March 7, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert, indicating that its personnel were monitoring reports of potential extremist plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, including concerts. The alert, which did not specify the extremists’ affiliation, cautioned Americans about the possibility of an attack within the next 48 hours.

This description highlights the source of the image and the photographer, following journalistic standards.
Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Pro-Kremlin figures utilized the U.S. Embassy’s warning to depict America as attempting to intimidate Russians. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia labeled the statement “obvious blackmail” with the aim to “intimidate and destabilize” Russian society.

According to American officials briefed on the matter, the attack on Friday was linked to the March 7 warning. They further noted that the United States had privately informed Russia at the time about intelligence regarding Islamic State activity.

Condolences and condemnation poured in from various corners of the globe, including governments at odds with Russia. Yulia Navalnaya, widow of the late opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, urged on social media for all involved in the crime to be brought to justice.

The assault coincided with a day when Ukraine faced a barrage of 165 missiles and drones, constituting what U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink described as “the largest attack against Ukraine’s energy grid” since Russia’s war began.

The shooting occurred just moments before the scheduled sold-out performance by veteran rock band Piknik. The concert hall, boasting 6,200 seats according to its website, witnessed the intrusion of at least three individuals in camouflage, who opened fire with automatic weapons and hurled incendiary devices, as reported by an RIA Novosti correspondent on site. Numerous individuals were confirmed wounded.

Videos captured inside the concert hall depict terrified audience members crouching and screaming amidst the sound of relentless gunfire outside.

Russia’s emergency services mobilized 130 vehicles and three helicopters to the scene, dropping water on the blaze that engulfed the upper floors. By late evening, the fire appeared to have significantly subsided.

Credit: Alexander Avilov/Moscow News Agency, via Associated Press
This revision properly attributes the image to the photographer and the news agency, adhering to journalistic standards.

Shootings are infrequent in Russia, where firearm possession is tightly regulated by the state. One of the deadliest incidents occurred in 2022, when a gunman killed 18 people and wounded 23 others in a school in Izhevsk.

If the reported figures of 60 dead and over 100 injured on Friday are accurate, then the toll is comparable to the 2011 suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, which claimed 37 lives, and two coordinated suicide bombings in Moscow subway stations in 2010 that resulted in 38 fatalities.

In 2004, a siege at a Moscow theater by Chechen separatists led to the deaths of 172 people. The police deployed a sedative gas to incapacitate the attackers, but unfortunately, the gas also claimed the lives of 132 hostages.

The venue where the attack occurred on Friday was developed by Azerbaijan-born billionaire Aras Agalarov, whose son, Emin, is a renowned pop star. Former President Donald Trump hosted the Miss Universe pageant at the same venue in 2013, and it has hosted performances by world-famous artists such as Eric Clapton, Dua Lipa, and Sia.