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At Least 133 Killed in Moscow’s Crocus City Hall, Russia’s Worst Terror Attack in Years

By Vusala Abbasova March 23, 2024

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On Friday night, at least four gunmen, donned in camouflage and armed with automatic weapons, burst into the crowded concert hall in the Russian capital’s western suburbs as the audience was gathering to watch the veteran rock band Picnic, shooting into the crowd and setting off explosives that started a massive fire.

At least 133 people have been killed at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall in what has been called Russia’s worst terror attack in years.

The rescue operation at the site of the terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall has been completed, but the search operation is still ongoing, Andrei Vorobyov, Governor of the Moscow Region, wrote on his Telegram channel.

“Today rescuers cleared a huge layer of the auditorium. Over the course of 24 hours, 133 bodies were pulled out from under the rubble, and the identities of 50 dead were tentatively identified. Identification by relatives is ahead. In hospitals, doctors are fighting for the lives of 107 people,” the governor wrote, as quoted by Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

On Friday night, at least four gunmen, donned in camouflage and armed with automatic weapons, burst into the crowded concert hall in the Russian capital’s western suburbs as the audience was gathering to watch the veteran rock band Picnic, shooting into the crowd and setting off explosives that started a massive fire. As a result of the fire, the roof of Crocus City Hall, a huge complex that includes a shopping center and a concert hall, collapsed. The most recent report, which was made public on Saturday, claims that the attackers who broke into the performance venue used a "flammable liquid" to set the building on fire.

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS), designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations, claimed responsibility for the attack on its Telegram channel on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin swiftly condemned the attack, labeling it a “terrorist act” and vowing harsh retribution to all those involved. In a televised address to the nation on Saturday, President Putin announced that four gunmen responsible for the Moscow concert hall shooting have been detained. He said that the attackers had attempted to flee towards Ukraine, implicating some individuals on the Ukrainian side for purportedly facilitating their escape. 

Earlier, Ukrainian authorities said claims of Ukrainian involvement were “absurd.”

President Putin announced a day of mourning for 24 March and said dozens of peaceful, innocent people were victims of the Crocus attack. Putin said all who prepared the attack would be identified and punished. He went further to thank the doctors and security officers who helped the victims of the Moscow attack.

The largest Caspian country, and the only one where Islam is not the majority religion, Russia has been the scene of terrorist attacks for years.

The tragic incident at Crocus City Hall stands as the deadliest terrorist attack in Russia since the infamous Beslan school siege of 2004. This was when Chechen separatists took more than 1,000 hostages, the vast majority children, and more than 330 people died, including 186 children.

The Moscow massacre evokes haunting memories of past atrocities, including the NordOst theater siege in 2002, when 40 Chechen militants took more than 900 people hostage. Russian security services eventually stormed the theatre, pumping sleeping gas into the hall. Some 130 hostages died.

More recently, in 2018, an 18-year-old student attacked a technical college in Kerch, in the Russian-annexed Crimea, killing 20 people before taking his own life. In 2021, two adults and seven children were killed in a school shooting in the Russian city of Kazan, leading to the detention of a 19-year-old. In 2022, a shooter who had previously attended a school in Izhevsk, central Russia, opened fire, murdering at least 17 people – 11 of them children – before taking his own life on the spot.