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Tragedy in Moscow: 137 Lives Lost in Crocus City Hall Concert Incident

Moscow crocus city hall concert tragedy

In a horrifying act of terror that has left Russia reeling, at least 137 people were killed and more than 140 injured when gunmen attacked the Crocus City Hall concert venue in Moscow on Friday evening. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the massacre, which unfolded during a packed rock concert by the popular band Picnic.

According to eyewitness accounts and security footage, four masked men armed with automatic weapons and petrol bombs entered the 6,200-capacity hall around 8pm local time, opening fire on the unsuspecting audience. Concertgoers described scenes of chaos and panic as they tried to flee the indiscriminate shooting, with some seeking refuge in the basement or on the roof while the attackers methodically gunned down victims.

“They were just walking and gunning down everyone methodically in silence. The sound was echoing, and we could not understand what was where,” recalled Anastasia Rodionova, who was attending the concert. Another witness, Vitaly, watched the attack unfold from a balcony: “They threw some petrol bombs; everything started burning.”

The gunmen set fire to parts of the building, causing massive plumes of smoke to fill the sky as the blaze engulfed about a third of the structure. The Russian Investigative Committee reported that the deaths were caused by a combination of gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation. Special forces units eventually stormed the venue, while medical teams and dozens of ambulances rushed to treat the injured. The attackers were later arrested, though details of the operation have not been disclosed.

On Saturday, the IS-linked Amaq news agency released an image allegedly showing the four perpetrators. In a disturbing development, the terrorist group also posted a graphic video, verified as authentic by BBC analysts, depicting one of the gunmen executing several people at point-blank range. Russian authorities have not yet commented on the IS claim of responsibility.

In a televised address to the nation on Saturday, a somber President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack as a “barbaric terrorist act” and suggested that the suspects had attempted to flee to Ukraine after the massacre. The Kremlin’s insinuation of Ukrainian involvement was swiftly rejected by Kyiv, with Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, telling the BBC that escaping to Ukraine “would suggest they were stupid or suicidal.”

The attack has strained the already tense relations between Moscow and Kyiv, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accusing Putin of trying to deflect blame onto Ukraine instead of addressing his own citizens. “This worthless Putin, instead of dealing with his citizens of Russia and addressing them, remained silent for a day, thinking how to bring this to Ukraine,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

Intriguingly, the United States had warned Russia earlier this month about a potential IS attack targeting large gatherings, including concerts, in Moscow—an alert that the Kremlin had dismissed as “propaganda” and meddling in the recent Russian elections. In the wake of Friday’s tragedy, the White House has condemned the “heinous” assault and affirmed that IS is “a common terrorist enemy that must be defeated everywhere.”

As Russia grapples with its deadliest terrorist attack in nearly two decades, the nation is observing an official day of mourning. Flags fly at half-mast across the country, while events have been canceled and television schedules adjusted. At a makeshift memorial outside the charred ruins of Crocus City Hall, Muscovites have been laying flowers and lighting candles in memory of the victims. The city’s electronic billboards display a solemn image of a single flickering candle accompanied by the word “Skorbim,” or “we mourn.”

The death toll from the attack, which the Russian Investigative Committee attributed to gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation, is expected to rise as many of the injured remain in critical condition. Moscow’s hospitals have issued urgent appeals for blood donations to help treat the more than 140 wounded survivors.

As shock and grief grip the nation, serious questions are being raised about how the heavily-armed attackers managed to execute such a devastating assault in the heart of the Russian capital, which has long prided itself on its strict security measures. The brazen nature of the attack has shaken public confidence and put pressure on authorities to provide answers and accountability.

While the full extent of the tragedy is still unfolding, it is clear that the Moscow concert massacre will leave deep scars on the Russian psyche. As the nation mourns the senseless loss of life and grapples with the aftermath of this unconscionable act of terror, the world stands in solidarity with the victims, their families, and all those affected by this dark chapter in Russia’s history.

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