Attack in Russia: national mourning, search of debris, investigation... What we know about Friday's terrorist attack

This Sunday, March 24, Russia observes a day of national mourning.

Attack in Russia: national mourning, search of debris, investigation... What we know about Friday's terrorist attack

This Sunday, March 24, Russia observes a day of national mourning. After the attack that occurred this Friday, March 22, near Moscow, killing 130 people, some are still without news of their loved ones. Interrogations of the suspects continue to understand their motivations.

Russian flags are at half mast. This Sunday, March 24, the country observes a day of national mourning following the massacre perpetrated Friday, March 22 at a concert hall near Moscow, Russia. The attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, left more than 130 victims, according to a latest report released on Saturday afternoon. Many families are still without news of their loved ones two days after the attack. Excavations in the rubble of the burned concert hall continue.

The assault, which Russian media began reporting around 8:15 p.m. in Moscow (5:15 p.m. GMT), was carried out by several armed individuals inside the Crocus City Hall, a concert hall located in Krasnogorsk, on the northwest exit of the Russian capital. The perpetrators allegedly used "automatic weapons" and set fire to the building using a "flammable liquid", the Investigative Committee said on Saturday. The emergency services, cited by the Interfax agency, indicated that the attackers had "opened fire on security agents at the entrance to the concert hall", before "starting shooting at the public". According to a journalist from the state news agency Ria Novosti, individuals in camouflage clothing burst into the concert hall before opening fire and throwing "a grenade or an incendiary bomb, which caused a fire.

"The people in the room lay down on the ground to protect themselves from the gunfire for 15 to 20 minutes, after which they started crawling out," he said. An AFP journalist who arrived at the scene hours after the attack saw black smoke and flames coming from the roof of the concert hall, which can accommodate up to 6,000 people. According to media reports, part of the roof collapsed. The fire was then brought under control.

From New York to Moscow, tributes multiplied this Saturday, while the circumstances of the attack began to become clearer. President Vladimir Putin has announced that Sunday will be a day of national mourning.

Searches in the rubble will continue for “several days”, warns Governor Andreï Vorobiov, on Télégramme. The toll, initially set at around forty deaths, rose to around a hundred deaths on Saturday March 23, 133 according to the latest figure provided by the Russian authorities on Saturday afternoon. According to the first elements of the investigation, the causes of these deaths are “gunshot wounds” and inhalation of fire smoke, indicated the Investigative Committee.

Russian diplomacy denounced a “bloody terrorist attack”. Russia has been the target of numerous terrorist attacks in the past. In 1999, hundreds of Russians were killed in two building explosions. 130 people were killed three years later during a hostage-taking in a theater. The heavy toll of the Crocus City Hall attack places this attack among the deadliest in the country's history.

On Saturday March 23, the director of the Russian Security Services (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov announced “the arrest of eleven people, including the four terrorists directly involved in the attack,” according to Russian news agencies. In a televised speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured that the alleged attackers arrested this Saturday "are foreign citizens", relays BFMTV.

The Islamic State (IS) group, which had already claimed responsibility for the attack on Friday evening, said on Saturday on Telegram that four of its fighters carried out the attack using machine guns, a pistol, knives and incendiary bombs. ", before adding that the attack takes place "in the context [...] of the raging war" between the group and "the countries fighting Islam".

The Afghan branch, the Islamic State group in Khorasan (EI-K), is the first suspect for experts of global terrorism, reveals Le Parisien, recalling that the organization had strongly criticized Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and its military interventions in Africa and Syria, explains the daily. Furthermore, the suicide attack against the Russian embassy in Afghanistan in 2022 and the fact that the group is working on its expansion towards Russia, in particular with the creation of a Russian-language media outlet, are all elements that could confirm this lead.

An investigation into a “terrorist act” has been opened. Russian President Vladimir Putin assured that "the four perpetrators" of the attack had been arrested while they were "heading towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data [from investigators], a 'window' had been prepared for them to cross the border. In his speech, he did not mention the IS claim.

According to several observers specializing in anti-terrorism research, a video shot by the attackers is circulating on social media accounts used by Daesh, reveals BFMTV. Lasting one minute and thirty-one seconds, the images show several individuals with blurred faces and garbled voices, armed with assault rifles and knives, killing several people in what appears to be the lobby of the Crocus City Hall concert hall. from Krasnogorsk.

The Russian security services (FSB) claimed that the suspects had “contacts” in Ukraine and planned to flee there. kyiv, for its part, denies any Ukrainian involvement in this attack and accuses Moscow of having orchestrated the attack. According to Russian media and MP Alexander Khinstein, some of the suspects are from Tajikistan.

"At the beginning of this month, the American government had information about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow [...]", declared Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the American National Security Council, adding that the United States- United had warned Russia, specifying that it could be targeted during “large gatherings, including concerts”. Interpol said its services were ready to help Russian investigators.

​​​​​​Faced with the tragedy, and despite ideological differences, international reactions multiplied from Friday March 22. The White House sent its thoughts to the victims of the attack. The European Union said it was “shocked and dismayed”. One of its spokespersons, Peter Stano, published a message on the social network Russian citizens affected. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs also reacted on social networks. “The images reaching us from Moscow are terrible. Our thoughts are with the victims and the injured and with the Russian people. Full light must be shed on these heinous acts,” he wrote.