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What we know about the Moscow concert hall terrorist attack

Three children were among the 93 people killed when gunmen dressed in camouflage opened fire at a popular hall near Moscow as crowds gathered for a Russian rock band concert.

The attack, involving at least four gunmen, sparked a huge fire at the Crocus City Hall, reportedly causing the roof to collapse, according to state media.

Russia arrested 11 people, including four suspected gunmen, in connection with the shooting rampage, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

It said FSB security service chief Alexander Bortnikov had reported to president Vladimir Putin that those detained included “four terrorists” and that the service was working to identify their accomplices.

Who were the attackers?

Islamic State, the militant group that once sought control over swathes of Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s Amaq agency said on Telegram.

Islamic State said its fighters attacked on the outskirts of Moscow, “killing and wounding hundreds and causing great destruction to the place before they withdrew to their bases safely”. The statement gave no further detail.

The United States has intelligence confirming Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the shooting, a US official said on Friday. The official said Washington had warned Moscow in recent weeks of the possibility of an attack.

Lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein cited “preliminary information” saying the attackers were in a Renault vehicle that was spotted by police in Bryansk region, about 340km (210 miles) southwest of Moscow on Friday night, but disobeyed instructions to stop.

“During the pursuit, shots were fired and the car overturned. One terrorist was detained on the spot, the rest fled into the forest. As a result of the search, a second suspect was found and detained at approximately 3.50am. The search for the others continues,” the lawmaker said.

It was not clear how many people had escaped the scene.

Mr Khinshtein said a pistol, a magazine for an assault rifle and passports from Tajikistan were found in the car. Russia has yet to say who it thinks is responsible.

Firefighters work near the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia, 23 March 2024. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov (REUTERS)
Firefighters work near the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia, 23 March 2024. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov (REUTERS)

When did the attack happen?

Gunmen sprayed civilians with bullets just before Soviet-era rock group “Picnic” was to perform to a full house at the 6,200-seat Crocus City Hall just west of the capital.

Verified video showed people taking their seats in the hall, then rushing for the exits as repeated gunfire echoed above screams. Other videos showed men shooting at groups of people. Some victims lay motionless in pools of blood.

Russian investigators said the death toll was more than 60. Health officials said about 145 people were wounded, of which about 60 were in critical condition.

Fire rises above the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, Russia, 22 March 2024. (EPA)
Fire rises above the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, Russia, 22 March 2024. (EPA)

What have eye-witnesses said?

Dave Primov, who was in the hall during the attack, described panic and chaos when the attack began. “There were volleys of gunfire,” Mr Primov told the Associated Press.

“We all got up and tried to move toward the aisles. People began to panic, started to run and collided with each other. Some fell down and others trampled on them.”

Videos posted by Russian media and on messaging app channels showed men toting assault rifles shooting screaming people at point-blank range. One video showed a man in the auditorium saying the assailants had set it on fire, as gunshots rang out incessantly.

“Suddenly there were bangs behind us – shots. A burst of firing – I do not know what,” one witness, who asked not to be identified by name, told Reuters.

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

Smoke from fire rises above the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia, 22 March 2024. (REUTERS)
Smoke from fire rises above the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia, 22 March 2024. (REUTERS)

Is this Moscow’s deadliest attack?

The attack, which left the concert hall in flames with a collapsing roof, was the deadliest in Russia in years and came as the country’s war in Ukraine dragged into a third year.

In the 2004 Beslan school siege, Islamist militants took more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children, hostage.

The three-day Beslan drama began when Islamist militants took more than 1,000 people hostage on the first day of the school year and called for independence for the majority-Muslim region of Chechnya. More than 330 hostages lost their lives, including at least 180 children, when the siege ended in a gun battle. It was the bloodiest incident of its kind in modern Russian history.

Emergency services vehicles are seen outside the burning Crocus City Hall concert hall following the shooting incident in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on March 22, 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)
Emergency services vehicles are seen outside the burning Crocus City Hall concert hall following the shooting incident in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on March 22, 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

How has Russia reacted to the attack?

Russian president Vladimir Putin was being updated by security chiefs about the situation, including from Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Kremlin said.

Russian investigators published pictures of a Kalashnikov automatic weapon, vests with multiple spare magazines and bags of spent bullet casings.

Russia tightened security at airports, transport hubs, and across the capital - a vast urban area of over 21 million people. All large-scale public events were cancelled across the country.

“The president constantly receives information about what is happening and about the measures being taken through all relevant services. The head of state gave all the necessary instructions,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin called the raid a “huge tragedy”.

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, Friday, 22 March 2024 (AP)
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, Friday, 22 March 2024 (AP)

What have world leaders said?

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said it was a “bloody terrorist attack” that the entire world should condemn.

The United States, European and Arab powers and many former Soviet republics expressed shock and sent their condolences. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak denied any Ukrainian involvement.

The United Nations Security Council condemned what it called a “heinous and cowardly terrorist attack”.

View of the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia, 22 March 2024. (REUTERS)
View of the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia, 22 March 2024. (REUTERS)

What happened to the attackers?

The fate of the attackers was unclear as firefighters battled a massive blaze and emergency services evacuated hundreds of people while parts of the venue’s roof collapsed.

A grainy picture was published by some Russian media of two of the alleged attackers in a white car.

Where is the Crocus City Hall?

The Crocus City Hall is a large music venue on Moscow’s western edge in the Krasnogorsky district, close to the Moscow Ring Road in the city of Krasnogorsk.

The venue was opened by Azerbaijani billionaire and real estate developer Aras Agalarov on 25 October 2009 and can accommodate 6,200 people.

Additional reporting by agencies