The Islamic State concert hall attack in Moscow is terrifying — and it could well happen in London


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If there’s a modern aspect to the ghoulish Islamic State in Khorasan, the south Asian affiliate of IS, it’s its habit of streaming video footage of its atrocities. It claimed responsibility for the Moscow attack on Friday, which killed 137 people (and counting) at a concert. Four of the gunmen posted a selfie.

Their bodycam video showed them in the lobby shooting at fans on the ground close up. Another repeatedly cut a man’s throat. “Kill them, show no mercy,” a voice says in Arabic. It posted statements describing this as “a blow against Russia”, boasting of killing Christians. IS-K was in fact, piqued at Vladimir Putin’s bid to put the blame on Ukraine.

This is, in terms of the number of people killed, the biggest terrorist attack in Europe, bigger than the Bataclan in Paris. And, for all that Western states are at odds with Russia for the Ukraine invasion, instinctively, our reaction to the rock concert attack was and is solidarity with the unfortunate Russians. You feel it could have been us.

President Putin, embarrassingly, ignored America’s warning. But we should take it on board.

It is a grisly reminder that the Islamist threat to Europe hasn’t gone away. While our attention was elsewhere, this IS franchise, which a Royal United Services Institute specialist, Dr Antonio Giustozzi, describes as “one of the most resilient terrorist organisations on the planet”, has been seeing off attempts by the Taliban — yes, them — to suppress it. IS-K has reportedly been planning attacks in Turkey and Europe and earlier carried out an attack in Iran. Interestingly, it makes use of women.

US intelligence has been on the case — it publicly warned Russian intelligence about an attack. Last Thursday, general Michael E Kurilla, the head of the US military’s Central Command, told a Senate hearing that IS-K “retains the capability and the will to attack US and Western interests abroad in as little as six months with little to no warning”. Last year, it tried and failed in Germany.

Gen Kurilla was proven right sooner than he expected. President Putin, embarrassingly, ignored the warning. But we should take it on board. The Islamist threat is real and it could come here. Moscow today, just maybe London tomorrow.

Melanie McDonagh is an Evening Standard columnist

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