Moscow concert attack: What we know [NSTTV]

PARIS: An attack by gunmen on a Moscow suburban concert hall Friday left at least 40 dead, 100 wounded and the theatre a blazing wreck, according to Russian authorities.

Here is what we know about the attack on the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk ahead of a concert by the Piknik rock band:

A witness told AFP it was a few minutes before the start of the concert by Piknik when automatic gunfire rang out. There were screams and then panic, said Alexei, a spectator who did not give his family name.

Emergency services quoted by the Interfax news agency said between two and five armed attackers dressed in "tactical uniforms" and carrying automatic weapons, entered the concert hall and opened fire.

Russian social media channels close to the security services showed videos of at least two men walking into the hall. Others showed bodies and groups of screaming people rushing towards exits.

A RIA Novosti journalist at the concert said that the attackers opened fire and threw a "grenade" or "incendiary bomb", which set off the fire.

Scores of people hid behind seats in the hall or rushed towards entrances to the basement or roof to escape the bullets.

An AFP journalist at the scene hours after the attack saw black smoke and flames coming from the roof of the concert hall, which can hold up to 6,000 people. Media said part of the roof had collapsed.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said that fire services helped about 100 people escape through the basement of the concert hall.

TASS news agency said that all of the Piknik group had been evacuated safely.

Rescue operations were also launched for people trapped on the roof.

Authorities said a hunt had been launched for the attackers and that a "terrorism" investigation had been launched.

The United Nations and the United States condemned the attack, as did the European Union and other Western countries that have sided with Ukraine since Russia's 2022 invasion.

A statement released by the Islamic State group claimed responsibility but Russia did not immediately blame anyone. Former president Dmitry Medvedev did say, however, that Ukrainian leaders found to be involved would be "destroyed".

The United States condemned the "horrible" events, but said there was no sign of Ukrainian involvement.

Ukraine intelligence blamed "Russian special services", saying the attack would be used to step up the war. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said accusations against the country were "a planned provocation by the Kremlin to further fuel anti-Ukrainian hysteria in Russian society".

The US embassy had said two weeks before the attack that there was a risk of "extremists" targeting mass gatherings in Moscow, including concerts.

Russian authorities announced on March 3 that six suspected Islamic State fighters had been killed in an operation in Ingushetia, a small Muslim-majority republic in the Caucasus region.

Russia has been the target of past attacks by militants, but also mass killings with no clear political link.

In 2002, Chechen separatist fighters took 912 people hostage in a Moscow theatre, the Dubrovka, demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Caucasus republic.

Special forces attacked the theatre to end the hostage-taking and 130 people were killed, nearly all suffocated by a gas used by security forces to knock out the gunmen. — AFP

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