Explosion, shooting at Moscow concert hall kill at least 60, injure more



Several gunmen opened fire Friday night at Crocus City Hall, a popular concert venue on the outskirts of Moscow, Russian state news agencies reported. Dozens of people were reported injured or killed and the building was on fire in the most deadly terrorist attack in Russia in more than a decade.

“People in camouflage, at least three, burst into the ground floor of the Crocus City Hall and opened fire from automatic weapons. There are definitely wounded,” state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing its correspondent at the scene.

The terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to its news agency. A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said the United States had “no reason to doubt” the claim.

Videos shared on Russian Telegram channels, and verified by The Post, show four men in camouflage entering a large hall and opening fire on people. (Video: Jon Gerberg, Jonathan Baran/The Washington Post)

“After that they threw a grenade or an incendiary bomb, which started a fire,” the RIA Novosti report added. “The people in the hall lay down on the floor to escape the shooting, and stayed there for 15-20 minutes, after which they began to crawl out. Many managed to get out.”

Videos, which were shared on Russian Telegram channels and verified by The Washington Post, show four men in camouflage entering a large marbled hall and opening fire, and shooters firing rounds in a concert hall, thick with smoke.

Other clips show scores of bodies slumped on benches or the ground as well as a large fire erupting from the building’s roof. The roof of the concert venue partially collapsed and the fire reached 140,000 square feet, according to the news service Interfax, which cited emergency services.

One graphic video showed shooters firing for a full minute at point-blank range on a group of people trapped in an entrance.

At least 60 people were killed and more than 100 wounded, the Tass news agency reported, citing the press office of the Federal Security Service. Moscow’s health ministry said more than 50 ambulance teams have been deployed to the venue.

Some foreign embassies in Moscow had issued warnings in recent weeks urging their citizens to avoid mass gatherings out of concern for the risk of terrorist attacks.

Ukraine swiftly denied any responsibility for the attack. “Ukraine definitely has nothing to do with these events,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency blamed Russia’s security services for the operation and said they would probably use the fallout to build support for their war in Ukraine.

The attack was “a planned and deliberate provocation by the Russian special services at the behest of Putin,” GUR said in a Telegram post. Its purpose was to “justify even tougher strikes on Ukraine and total mobilization in Russia,” the agency said.

Some senior Russian officials, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, blamed the attack on Kyiv and threatened harsh retaliation. Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofyev called for a nuclear strike.

“Let’s give the civilian population of Ukraine 48 hours to leave the cities and finally end this war with the victorious defeat of the enemy. Using all forces and means,” Malofyev wrote on Telegram.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said March 7 that it was “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings” in the Russian capital, including concerts, and urged U.S. citizens to avoid them. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said that the U.S. government shared the information that prompted the Embassy’s warning with Russian officials.

“Earlier this month, the U.S. Government had information about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow — potentially targeting large gatherings, to include concerts — which prompted the State Department to issue a public advisory to Americans in Russia,” Watson said. “The U.S. Government also shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its long-standing ‘duty to warn’ policy.”

Recent intelligence reporting indicated the ISIS-K terrorist group, a branch of the Islamic State that has operated in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, was active inside Russia, two U.S. officials told The Washington Post. The U.S. Embassy’s warning was based in part on intelligence reporting about possible ISIS-K activity inside Russia, said the U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

Crocus City Hall is adjacent to a large shopping mall and was the site of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant attended by Donald Trump — a visit to Moscow that factored into the controversial “Steele dossier,” a collection of largely unverified reports that claimed the Russian government had compromising information about the future president.

The attack began before the start of a Friday night concert by the rock band called Picnic. The musicians were apparently in their dressing room when it started. The concert was sold out, according to ticket agencies, suggesting that as many as 6,200 people may have been in the venue.

One witness said she was about to enter with her parents when the attack began.

“We were literally three steps away from the entrance when the shooting started … and a man fell down dead in front of me,” the girl, who gave her name as Anna, told the Russian channel TV Rain in a telephone interview. “People started shouting, ‘Run, they’re shooting!’ We didn’t realize it at first, because it sounded like firecrackers.”

Another witness counted “at least five” attackers, armed with assault rifles, ammunition and armored vests.

“They act like trained fighters,” the witness told Mash, a Russian Telegram channel. “At the moment of entering the building, the guards and people standing at the door were killed. Then they blocked the main entrance.”

As condolences and condemnations from world leaders poured in, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered assistance for those affected by the attack and said authorities would cancel all cultural, sport and other mass gatherings for the weekend.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, said that “those who are behind this monstrous crime will suffer a well-deserved and inevitable punishment.”

Opposition politician Yulia Navalnaya called the attack “a nightmare.”

“Everyone involved in this crime must be found and held accountable,” Navalnaya, whose husband, Alexei Navalny, died last month in a Russian prison colony, wrote on social media.

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Initial reports by Russian media suggested that some assailants might have barricaded themselves inside and that there could be at least 100 people still in the building — some potentially trapped by fire on an upper floor. Video appeared to show panicked concertgoers diving under seats as the sound of gunfire echoed around the hall. Some tried to escape through underground basements but found exit doors locked.

The scene outside the venue was chaotic. Emergency workers tended to the wounded while firefighters battled the blaze from the ground and helicopters above. Journalists covering the attack were reportedly beaten and forcibly removed from the scene by police.

Moscow regional governor Alexei Vorobyov said that at least 20 people had been hospitalized and that five were in critical condition.

Russia has suffered several terrorist attacks over the years, many of them related to its wars in Chechnya and authorities’ suppression of radical Islamic groups.

In 2011, an explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport killed 37 people and injured 72.

In October 2002, heavily armed Chechen terrorists seized the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow and held hundreds of hostages for three days. At least 150 people died, the great majority due to Russian special forces’ decision to fill the venue with gas.

Siobhán O’Grady and Kostiantyn Khudov in Kyiv, Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, and Shane Harris in Washington contributed to this report.


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