23 Mar 2024

Gunmen unleash chaos at Moscow concert hall; at least 60 die, over 100 injured

Gunmen unleashed chaos at a rock concert in a suburb of Moscow on Friday, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 60 lives, with over 100 individuals injured and a devastating inferno engulfing the theatre, as per authorities.

Clad in camouflage attire, assailants stormed into the venue, initiating gunfire and hurling a grenade or incendiary device, as reported by a journalist from the RIA Novosti news agency present at the scene.

Fire engulfed the City concert hall

The fire rapidly engulfed the Crocus City concert hall located in the Krasnogorsk suburb, situated in the northern reaches of the Russian capital. This venue, capable of accommodating several thousand attendees, has previously hosted renowned international artists.

The attack, which Russian authorities are investigating as terrorism, is the deadliest in Russia in recent years.

Several gunmen burst into the concert hall on the edge of Moscow and sprayed visitors with automatic gunfire, killing and wounding dozens and starting a massive blaze.

The attack comes days after President Vladimir Putin cemented his grip on the country in a highly orchestrated electoral landslide.

The FSB security service, as cited by the Interfax news agency and other Russian media outlets, stated, "According to preliminary information, 40 people were killed and more than 100 were injured as a result of a terrorist attack in the Crocus City Hall."

Putin receiving continuous updates on the situation

An investigation into the incident, categorized as "terrorist," has been initiated, with President Vladimir Putin receiving continuous updates on the situation, as conveyed by his spokesman Dmitry Peskov to Russian news agencies.

Telegram news channels Baza and Mash, known for their proximity to security forces, aired footage displaying flames and thick black smoke billowing from the hall. Additionally, images depicted individuals seeking refuge behind seats or endeavoring to flee the scene.

Moscow's mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, lamented the "terrible tragedy" that unfolded during the concert featuring the Russian rock band Piknik and subsequently canceled all public events scheduled for the weekend.

Security services, quoted by Interfax news agency, revealed that between two to five individuals, donning tactical gear and armed with automatic weapons, initiated the attack by firing upon guards stationed at the entrance before targeting the audience.

Attendees took cover on the ground for 15 to 20 minutes amidst gunfire

Witnesses reported that attendees took cover on the ground for approximately 15 to 20 minutes amidst the gunfire. Subsequently, when deemed safe, individuals began crawling to safety and evacuating the premises.

Approximately 100 individuals managed to escape through the theatre's basement, while others sought shelter on the roof, as confirmed by the emergency services ministry via its Telegram channel. Nevertheless, TASS news agency reported that a third of the complex was engulfed in flames.

Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, unequivocally condemned the incident as a "bloody terrorist attack," urging the international community to denounce this heinous act.

Although the US presidency described the attack as "terrible," there is currently no indication of any connection to the conflict in Ukraine, according to US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Russia, Ukraine trade blames

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took to Telegram, pledging to pursue and eradicate any Ukrainian officials implicated in the attack, labeling them as terrorists.

On the Ukrainian side, the main intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian defense ministry has pointed fingers at Russian secret services, alleging their complicity in orchestrating the deadly assault on a concert hall near Moscow. Accusing the Russian special services of executing a premeditated and deliberate act of provocation on the orders of President Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian intelligence service asserted on Telegram that the attack aimed to "further escalate and expand the war" with Ukraine

As security forces mobilized around the theatre and nearby areas, Orthodox church leader Patriarch Kirill offered prayers for the souls of the deceased.

As a massive security operation unfolded around the theatre and nearby shopping mall, Moscow's mayor extended condolences to the families of the victims.

Orthodox church leader Patriarch Kirill's spokesperson, Vladimir Legoyda, conveyed that the Patriarch was offering prayers for the souls of the departed.

While Moscow and other Russian cities have previously faced attacks from Islamist groups, there have also been incidents devoid of clear political motives.

Earlier this month, the US embassy in Russia issued a warning of imminent plans by extremists to target large gatherings in Moscow, including concerts.

The tragic siege of the Moscow theatre, Dobrovka, in 2002 by Chechen separatist fighters, resulting in the loss of 130 lives, remains a haunting memory. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the enduring threat posed by terrorism, both domestically and internationally.

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