Russia’s Putin says ‘radical Islamists’ behind Moscow concert hall attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin says for the first time that “radical Islamists” were behind last week’s attack on a concert hall outside Moscow but suggests Ukraine was also somehow involved.

Eleven people have been detained in connection with Friday’s attack, which saw camouflaged gunmen storm into Crocus City Hall, open fire on concert-goers and set the building ablaze, killing at least 137 people.

“We know that the crime was committed by the hands of radical Islamists, whose ideology the Islamic world itself has been fighting for centuries,” Putin said in a televised meeting on Monday.

“This atrocity may be just a link in a whole series of attempts by those who have been at war with our country since 2014 with the hands of the neo-Nazi Kyiv regime,” he said, referring to Ukraine.

A fire is seen at the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow on March 22, 2024 [Sergei Vedyashkin/Moscow News Agency via AP]

“Of course, it is necessary to answer the question, ‘Why after committing the crime the terrorists tried to go to Ukraine?’ Who was waiting for them there?” Putin asked.

Putin didn’t mention the affiliate of ISIL (ISIS) that claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Islamic State in Khorasan Province has said several times since Friday that it was responsible, and ISIL-affiliated media channels have published graphic videos of the gunmen during the attack.

After the ISIL affiliate claimed responsibility, United States intelligence backed up its claims. French President Emmanuel Macron said France has intelligence pointing to “an ISIL entity” as responsible.

Earlier on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to assign blame, urging reporters to wait for the results of the investigation in Russia.

He also refused to comment on reports that the US warned authorities in Moscow on March 7 about a possible attack, saying any such intelligence is confidential.

‘Kill them all’

As Putin spoke, calls mounted in Russia to harshly punish those behind the attack.

Four men were charged on Sunday night by a Moscow court with carrying out a “terrorist” attack. At their court appearance, they showed signs of being severely beaten. Civil liberties groups cited this as a sign that Russia’s poor record on human rights under Putin was bound to worsen.

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabari, reporting from Moscow, said the ages of the four suspects who appeared in court range from 19 to 32 and they appeared to be in “fairly bad shape physically”.

“They had bruises on their faces that were visible, and also one of the men was semiconscious. He was wheeled into the courthouse with his doctor,” Jabari said.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the investigation is ongoing but promised that “the perpetrators will be punished. They do not deserve mercy.”

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, urged authorities to “kill them all”.

The attack on Crocus City Hall on the western outskirts of Moscow injured more than 180 people. A total of 97 people remained hospitalised, officials said.

As they mowed down concertgoers with gunfire, the attackers set fire to the vast concert hall, and the resulting blaze caused the roof to collapse.

The search for victims will continue until at least Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

The four suspects were identified in the Russian media as Tajik nationals. At least two of the suspects admitted culpability, court officials said, although their conditions raised questions about whether their statements were coerced.

The men were identified as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, 32; Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, 30; Shamsidin Fariduni, 25; and Mukhammadsobir Faizov, 19. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The Federal Security Service said seven other suspects have been detained. Three of them appeared in court on Monday with no signs of injuries, and they were placed in pre-trial detention on terrorism charges. The fate of the other suspects remained unclear.

Meanwhile, security has been heightened in Moscow, Jabari said.

“So far, there have been at least 10 security alerts in shopping malls which had to be evacuated in the capital,” she said.

“Many people are still grieving,” Jabari added.

Source: Aljazeera

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