New Islamic State videos back claim it carried out Moscow concert hall attack | Russia

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Footage of gunmen reinforces terror group’s claim to have masterminded worst terror attack on Russia in two decades

Sun 24 Mar 2024 07.56 EDT

Islamic State has released new videos of the attack on the Crocus City concert hall outside Moscow that left 133 people dead, corroborating the terror group’s claim to have masterminded the slaughter even as Russia has sought to place the blame on Ukraine, which Kyiv denies.

The videos, which were published by IS’s news agency Amaq, showed the gunmen filming themselves as they hunted concertgoers through the lobby of the Crocus City Hall and fired at them from pointblank range, killing scores of people. At one point, one of the gunmen tells another to “kill them and have no mercy.”

Russia is observing a nationwide day of mourning on Sunday for the worst terror attack on the country’s soil in two decades, as the official number of wounded rose to 154. Russian authorities have said they expect the death toll to rise with at least one dozen victims still in critical condition.

Hundreds of people brought flowers and other tributes to the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, as local emergency workers say they are still continuing to search for anyone who may be left wounded or dead inside the severely damaged entertainment complex.

Foreign embassies in Moscow have also voiced their solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attack. Flags were lowered to half-mast at the embassies of the US, the UK and the Netherlands amid high tensions over the war in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin said 11 people had been detained, including the four gunmen. He also claimed, without evidence, that Ukraine had “prepared a window” for the terrorists to cross the border from Russia into Ukraine.

People lay flowers at a memorial in St Petersburg on Sunday. Photograph: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP

Kyiv has vociferously denied any links to the attack and has indicated it believes Moscow is preparing a pretext to escalate the conflict.

The US has said it received intelligence that the terror group acted alone.

“Isis bears sole responsibility for this attack. There was no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever,” the National Security Council spokesperson, Adrienne Watson, said in a statement.

Russian officials and state media have largely ignored IS’s claims to be behind the attacks.

Meduza, an independent Russian-language website, has reported that Russian state-funded and pro-government media had been instructed by the Putin administration to emphasise possible “traces” of Ukrainian involvement in the attack, according to two state media employees.

Putin did not name the Islamist terror group during his public statements on the attack, while directly accusing the “Ukrainian side” of involvement. IS also released a photograph of the purported gunmen before the attack. Researchers have noted that their clothing matches that worn by some of the attackers.

Mourners pay tribute to Moscow attack victims outside Crocus concert hall – video

On Sunday, the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, disregarded the US intelligence reports that IS was behind the attacks.

“I wish they could have solved the assassination of their own President Kennedy so quickly,” she wrote on Telegram. “But no, for more than 60 years they have not been able to find out who killed him after all. Or maybe that was Isis too?

“Until the investigation into the terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall is completed, any phrase from Washington exonerating Kyiv should be considered as evidence,” she added. “After all, the financing of terrorist activities of the Kyiv organised criminal group by the American liberal democrats and participation in the corrupt schemes of the Biden family have been going on for many years.”

Fresh details have emerged of how the gunmen stormed the concert hall and began firing into crowds of people, then set fire to the building and fled the scene, leading to a fevered manhunt for the terrorists.

The gunmen appear to have planned the attack carefully, setting fires by an emergency stairwell in order to herd people toward a killing zone in the middle of the lobby.

People lay flowers at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the attack set up outside the Crocus City Hall concert venue near Moscow. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The men were caught in the southern Bryansk region, where authorities said they disabled their vehicle, and then caught several of the suspects as they fled into a nearby forest.

New videos have been published showing Russian security forces interrogating the men, at least one of whom spoke Tajik during an interrogation. Tajikistan’s foreign ministry initially denied that the suspects were citizens of the country.

In a phone call on Sunday, Putin and the Tajikistan leader, Emomali Rahmon, “noted that security services and relevant agencies of Russia and Tajikistan are working closely in countering terrorism, and this work will be intensified”.

Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has previously been reported to have recruited radicalised nationals from central Asia, including Tajikistan.

Some of the videos of the interrogations suggest that the men were tortured by Russian security services.

One of the clips, circulated by Russian bloggers, appears to show members of the security forces cutting off the ear of a man who is later interrogated over the attack and then stuffing it into his mouth.

Another appears to show security forces beating a suspect with their rifle butts and kicks to the body as he lies in the snow.

Russian independent media noted that the officer who apparently cut off the ear of the suspect was wearing patches that indicated his support for neo-Nazi groups and appeared to have contact with the far-right Rusich paramilitary group, which is active in Ukraine. The patches included a black sun and a symbol resembling the Totenkopf, or death’s head, worn by several Nazi divisions.

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