Over 90 dead, 145 wounded in terrorist shooting at Moscow concert

Islamic State claims responsibility for mass shooting and blaze in which gunmen opened fire, threw grenades at crowded theater; mayor cancels all weekend events

Emergency services vehicles are seen outside the burning Crocus City Hall concert hall following the shooting incident in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on March 22, 2024. (Stringer/AFP)
Emergency services vehicles are seen outside the burning Crocus City Hall concert hall following the shooting incident in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on March 22, 2024. (Stringer/AFP)

MOSCOW — The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a gun attack on a Moscow concert hall on Friday, which Russian investigators said killed over 60 people. Moscow on Saturday morning updated the toll to 93.

ISIS terrorists “attacked a large gathering… on the outskirts of the Russian capital Moscow,” the group said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app, adding that the attackers had “retreated to their bases safely.”

Russia’s National Guard said it was on the scene and looking for the perpetrators of the attack, which a regional ministry reported left another 145 people were wounded.

“The bodies of the deceased are currently being examined. It is provisionally established that more than 60 people died in the terrorist attack. Unfortunately, the number of victims could rise,” said the Investigative Committee.

Gunmen opened fire at a rock concert in a Moscow suburb Friday leaving dead and wounded before a major fire spread through the theater, Moscow’s mayor and Russian news agencies reported.

Russia’s top investigative agency said it was probing the shootings, explosions and fire as a terrorist attack.

Attackers dressed in camouflaged outfits entered the building, opened fire and threw a grenade or incendiary bomb, according to a journalist for the RIA Novosti news agency who was at the scene.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the incident a “terrorist attack” that had to be condemned.

“The whole international community must condemn this odious crime,” she said on Telegram.

Fire quickly spread through the Crocus City Hall, north of the Russian capital, where the theater can hold several thousand people and has staged several concerts by top international artists, according to local reports.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin confirmed there were deaths in what he called a “terrible tragedy” at the concert by Russian rock band Piknik.

Automatic gunfire was used on the audience, the RIA Novosti journalist reported.

“People who were in the hall were led on the ground to protect themselves from the shooting for 15 or 20 minutes,” the journalist was quoted as saying.

People started crawling out when it was safe, the journalist reported, adding that security forces were at the scene.

About 100 people escaped through the theater basement, while others were sheltering on the roof, the emergency services ministry said on its Telegram channel.

Telegram news channels Baza and Mash, which are close to security forces, showed video images of flames and black smoke pouring from the concert hall.

Mash also circulated a video purporting to show one of the attackers being detained.

Other images showed two men walking through the hall, with at least one person left on the ground near the entrance. Spectators were also seen hiding behind seats or trying to escape.

The United Nations Security Council condemned what it called the “heinous and cowardly terrorist attack.”

The United States presidency called the attack “terrible,” but said there was no immediate indication of any link to the war in Ukraine.

“I offer my condolences to the families of the dead,” said Moscow’s mayor, as a major security operation was launched around the theater and nearby shopping mall.

According to an American official, the US has intelligence confirming Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the attack.

The official said the United States had warned Russia in recent weeks about the possibility of an attack.

“We did warn the Russians appropriately,” added the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, without providing any additional details.

Sobyanin said he had canceled all public events in Moscow for the weekend.

Police block the road to the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

TASS news agency said that SOBR and special police forces and the OMON anti-riot squad had been sent to the Crocus hall.

It added that all the members of the rock band had been evacuated safely.

Orthodox church leader Patriarch Kirill was “praying for peace for the souls of the dead,” said his spokesman Vladimir Legoyda.

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