At least 40 dead in Moscow-area concert hall attack as ISIS claims responsibility

Author: Editors Desk Source: CBC News:
March 22, 2024 at 20:55
Sergei Vedyashkin/Moscow News Agency/The Associated Press
Sergei Vedyashkin/Moscow News Agency/The Associated Press

Multiple assailants with automatic weapons, explosives attack Crocus City Hall venue

The latest:

  • Russian security officials say at least 40 people killed, more than 100 injured in Friday night attack
  • Attack began at Crocus City Hall, a concert venue attached to large shopping mall in a Moscow suburb
  • ISIS claim of responsibility not immediately possible to verify
  • Social media showed multiple gunmen in fatigues shooting people with automatic weapons
  • Russian media reports say assailants set off explosives, sparking massive fire 
  • Moscow mayor cancels all large gatherings, events this weekend
  • U.S. and Canadian embassies recently urged citizens to avoid crowded areas due to risk of imminent attack
  • Worst attack in Russia in more than two decades

The Federal Security Service, Russia's top security agency, said at least 40 people were killed and more than 140 others were wounded in an attack that began at a Moscow-area concert hall Friday night. Russian government officials say children are among the dead and wounded.

Russian media outlets reported that between two to five assailants dressed in combat fatigues burst into the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, a suburb on the western edge of the Russian capital, firing automatic weapons at the crowds and setting off explosives, causing a massive blaze.

ISIS, also known as Islamic State, issued a claim of responsibility hours later on its Telegram channel, but it was not immediately possible to verify. 

Flames leapt into the sky, and plumes of black smoke rose above the venue as hundreds of blue lights from emergency vehicles flashed in the night, Reuters pictures and video showed.

Russian state-owned news agency Ria Novosti reported earlier that the roof of the venue was collapsing. Russian media also reported a second blast at the venue.

Helicopters sought to douse flames that engulfed the large building and evacuated around 100 people from the basement.

Shortly before 11 p.m. local time, Russia's Interfax news agency reported firefighting crews had contained the fire, which had grown to approximately 12,900 square metres.

The attack took place as crowds gathered for a concert by Picnic, a famed Russian rock band, at the hall, which can accommodate over 6,000 people.

Crocus City Hall is a part of a larger complex in the Moscow suburb of Krasnogorsk that also includes a shopping mall, a convention centre and other facilities. 

'Everyone was screaming'

Verified video showed people taking their seats in the hall, then rushing for the exits as repeated gunfire echoed above screams.

Other video showed men shooting at groups of people. Some victims lay motionless in pools of blood.

More videos showed up to four attackers, armed with assault rifles and wearing caps, who were shooting screaming people at point-blank range.

WATCH | Social media video captures sounds of gunshots, panic as Russian concert hall attacked:

Video obtained by Reuters from Telegram channel Ostorozhno Novosti on Friday shows people in a concert hall outside Moscow fleeing and shouting 'close the doors' amid the sounds of gunfire.

Another one showed a man inside the auditorium, saying the assailants set it on fire, with incessant gunshots ringing out in the background.

"Suddenly, there were bangs behind us — shots. A burst of firing, I do not know what," one witness who asked not to be named told Reuters.

"A stampede began. Everyone ran to the escalator," the witness said. "Everyone was screaming, everyone was running."

People muster outside at night among a number of armed police outside a building following an attack.
Men cover themselves with blankets outside the concert venue as Russian law enforcement officers stand guard near the burning building. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Russian media reports said that riot police, 70 ambulance crews and Russia's National Guard were all sent to the area as people were being evacuated.

WATCH | Massive fires erupts following attack at Russian concert hall:

Following a deadly attack leaving dozens killed at the Crocus City Concert Hall in Krasnogorsk, Russia, emergency crews worked to contain a fire that had sparked in the building.


'A monstrous crime'

It wasn't immediately clear what happened to the assailants, but the Russian National Guard is searching for those who carried out the attack — the worst in Russia in two decades.

Some outlets said gunmen barricaded themselves in the building, but state news agency RIA said the gunmen were presumed to be at large.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said it is taking "all necessary measures" in connection with the shooting, Russian news agency Interfax reported on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is receiving regular updates about the attack, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

Putin had given all necessary instructions in connection with the incident, Russian news agencies reported Peskov saying.

Armed security guards, wearing helmets and fatigues, stand in front of a building with the words 'Crocus City Hall' on the top. Flames and smoke are rising above the building.
Russian law enforcement officers stand guard near the burning Crocus City Hall. Riot police, 70 ambulance crews and Russia's National Guard all responded to the incident. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Russian ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova labelled the event a "terrorist attack" while Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said it was "a monstrous crime" and called on the international community to condemn the attack.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin described the attack as a "huge tragedy."

He cancelled all mass gatherings in the city for this weekend.

Russian authorities said they had stepped up security measures at Moscow airports and railway stations, agencies reported.

Emergency vehicles parked in front of a large building at night with huge flames and smoke rising above the roof.
Dozens of emergency crews respond to an attack at the Crocus City Hall, where people were attending a show by the Russian rock band Picnic on Friday night. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)


Embassies previously warned citizens

The attack followed a security alert the U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued on March 7 urging Americans to avoid crowded places in the Russian capital, saying it was "in view of an imminent attack." The warning was repeated by several other Western embassies.

"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 statement read.

White House national security advisor John Kirby said Friday that he couldn't yet speak about all the details, but that "the images are just horrible. And just hard to watch."

Thick smoke and flames rising out of the top of a large building at night.
A helicopter helped put out a fire at the burning venue, which is in the Moscow suburb of Krasnogorsk. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Global Affairs Canada also updated its travel advisory for Russia earlier this month with details of the U.S. Embassy warning, advising Canadians in Moscow to avoid large gatherings, concerts and public events.

In a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Canada's ambassador to Russia, Sarah Taylor, cautioned "further attacks could occur at any time" and told Canadians in areas affected by Friday night's attack to contact the embassy if they are in need of emergency assistance. 

Global Affairs Canada has previously warned Canadians to avoid all travel to Russia due to the due to the impacts of the armed conflict with Ukraine and the risk of terrorism.

With files from CBC News and Reuters

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