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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Russia mourns concert hall victims, Putin pledges to track down and punish offenders

I express my deep, sincere condolences to all those who lost their loved ones, said the Russian President

Reuters Moscow Published 25.03.24, 06:47 AM
A woman with her child in front of the Crocus City Hall in the Moscow Region on Sunday

A woman with her child in front of the Crocus City Hall in the Moscow Region on Sunday AP/PTI picture

Russia lowered flags to half-mast on Sunday for a day of mourning after scores of people were gunned down with automatic weapons at a rock concert outside Moscow on Friday.

President Vladimir Putin declared a national day of mourning after pledging to track down and punish all those behind the attack, in which 137 people were killed, including three children, and more than 150 injured.

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“I express my deep, sincere condolences to all those who lost their loved ones,” Putin said in an address to the nation on Saturday, his first public comments on the attack. “The whole country and our entire people are grieving with you.”

People laid flowers at Crocus City Hall, the 6,200-seat concert hall outside Moscow, where four armed men burst in on Friday just before Soviet-era rock band Piknik was to perform its hit Afraid of Nothing.

Long lines formed in Moscow to donate blood. Blood banks said on Sunday they now had enough blood supplies for four to six months.

Across Moscow, billboards carried a picture of a single candle, the date of the attack and the words “We mourn”. In other cities, people laid flowers.

Gunmen

Putin said 11 people had been detained, including the four gunmen, who fled the concert hall and made their way to the Bryansk region, about 340km southwest of Moscow.

“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,” Putin said.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said the gunmen had contacts in Ukraine and were captured near the border.

The suspects have been brought to Moscow and may appear in court later in the day, according to local news agencies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was typical of Putin and “other thugs” to seek to divert blame.

Islamic State, the Islamist group that once sought control over swathes of Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s Amaq agency said on Telegram. On Saturday night, Islamic State released on its Telegram channels what it said was footage of the attack.

In video footage published by Russian media and Telegram channels with close ties to the Kremlin, one of the suspects said he was offered money to carry out the attack.

“I shot people,” the suspect, his hands tied and his hair held by an interrogator, a black boot beneath his chin, said in poor and highly accented Russian.

When asked why, he said: “For money”. The man said he had been promised half a million roubles (a little over $5,000). One was shown answering questions through a Tajik translator. Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon spoke to Putin about the attack.

The White House said the US government shared information with Russia early this month about a planned attack in Moscow, and issued a public advisory to Americans in Russia on March 7. It said Islamic State bore sole responsibility for the attack. Reuters

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