Kremlin: Death Toll Hits 133 in Moscow Concert Attack, All 4 Terrorists Arrested
Kremlin: Death Toll Hits 133 in Moscow Concert Attack, All 4 Terrorists Arrested

By Tom Ozimek

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has declared a national day of mourning as officials said all four suspects involved in the deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall had been arrested, with the death toll rising to 133.

“I declare March 24 a day of nationwide mourning,” President Putin said in a televised address to the nation on March 23, in his first public remarks since the attack at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow, which he called a “bloody, barbaric terrorist act.”

The Russian Investigative Committee provided an update on Saturday on the death toll.

“As the rubble was being removed in the concert hall of the Crocus City Hall, the number of people killed in the attack has risen to 133. The search operation is underway,” the committee said in a statement, per Russian state media Tass.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a statement on Saturday that a total of 11 people have been detained in connection with the incident, “including four terrorists, who directly participated in the terrorist attack.”

The FSB said that it has determined that the attack was “carefully planned” and that the attackers had placed the weapons they used in a cache ahead of time.

“Work is underway to identify terrorist accomplices and establish all the circumstances of the attack,” the FSB said.

Friday’s attack came about two weeks after Western countries, including the United States, issued terror warnings and told their citizens not to attend any public gatherings in Russia.

“The Embassy is monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts, and U.S. citizens should be advised to avoid large gatherings over the next 48 hours,” the U.S. Embassy in Russia said in a March 7 alert.

President Putin dismissed the warnings from Western embassies as a “provocation.”

Blame Game

The Russian president said in his televised address that the attackers tried to cross the border into Ukraine, which he said sought to create a “window” to help them escape.

“They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border,” he said.

The FSB said that the attackers had contacts in Ukraine and were captured near the border.

Ukraine has denied any involvement and has accused the Kremlin of exploiting the attack to whip up domestic support for its war effort.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has denied any involvement.

“Ukraine has never resorted to the use of terrorist methods,” he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “Everything in this war will be decided only on the battlefield.”

He argued that Moscow would use the attack to whip up fervor for its war effort against Kyiv.

“There is not the slightest doubt that the events in the Moscow suburbs will contribute to a sharp increase in military propaganda, accelerated militarization, expanded mobilization, and, ultimately, the scaling up of the war,” he said in the post. “And also to justify manifest genocidal strikes against the civilian population of Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s foreign ministry also denied that the country had any involvement and accused Moscow of using the attack to try to build support for its war effort.

“We consider such accusations to be a planned provocation by the Kremlin to further fuel anti-Ukrainian hysteria in Russian society, create conditions for increased mobilization of Russian citizens to participate in the criminal aggression against our country, and discredit Ukraine in the eyes of the international community,” the ministry said in a statement.

A massive blaze is seen over the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, on March 22, 2024. (Sergei Vedyashkin/Moscow News Agency via AP)

ISIS Claims Responsibility

The Islamic State group’s Afghanistan branch claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on affiliated social media channels.

A U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press that U.S. agencies had confirmed that the group was responsible for the attack.

One of the men detained on suspicion of involvement in the attack said he was promised a reward of around $5,400 for taking part, according to video posted on a Russian state television editor’s Telegram channel.

Several videos circulated on social media showed people being detained and interrogated in connection with the attack, which also left many people wounded.

A medic stands near ambulances parked outside the burning building of the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, on March 22, 2024. (Vitaly Smolnikov /AP Photo)
A Russian Rosguardia (National Guard) servicemen secures an area as a massive blaze seen over the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, on March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

The attack took place when a Soviet-era rock band was due to perform.

Multiple videos circulating on social media showed camouflage-clad individuals opening fire with automatic weapons at concertgoers.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said some people died from gunshot wounds and others in a huge fire that broke out in the complex.

Some reports indicate that terrorists lit the blaze using gasoline from canisters they carried in their backpacks.

The attack comes just days after President Putin was reelected to another six-year term in an election condemned by many as rigged.

Following the attack, the U.S. Embassy in Russia said in an alert that American citizens should avoid the area and monitor local media for updates.

“The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is horrified by reports coming from the terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow. We offer our sincere condolences to the Russian people for the lives lost and to those injured in tonight’s attack,” the U.S. Embassy said.

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