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Wild details in the court photos of the accused gunmen

The four men accused of involvement in the Moscow Concert Hall massacre that left 137 people dead were brought to trial bloodied and injured, one man confined to a wheelchair and another missing part of his ear.

The group was led blindfolded into a Moscow courtroom on Sunday local time and charged with terrorism, as Russia marked a national day of mourning following the attack on Crocus town hall on Friday evening.

According to Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, the men face life sentences and will be detained until at least May 22, although this term may be extended depending on the date of their trial.
Court reports named the four men as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda, Shamsidin Fariduni and Muhammadsobir Fayzov.

Officials said the gunmen were all foreign nationals.

The men appeared to be visibly injured: Mirzoyev and Rachabalizoda’s eyes were blackened and the latter’s ear was heavily bandaged – allegedly because it had been partially severed during his arrest.

According to Reuters news agency, the right side of Fariduni’s face was swollen and Fayzov was taken to court in a wheelchair. It seemed like he was missing an eye.

The court said two of the defendants had pleaded guilty and one of them, from Tajikistan, had “fully admitted his guilt.”

President Vladimir Putin vowed to punish those behind the “barbaric terrorist attack” and said on Saturday the four gunmen had been captured as they tried to flee to Ukraine. Kiev has strongly denied any connection to the attack.

Videos circulating online showed the moment soldiers arrested the men in the Bryansk region of western Russia, reportedly near the Ukrainian border.

A suspect is filmed on his knees with his arms and legs bound as he appears to confess to carrying out the mass shooting for US$16,612 (₽1,000,000), allegedly on behalf of the jihadist group ISIS-K.

Putin has not publicly mentioned the Islamic State (IS) claim of responsibility.

At least 137 people, including three children, were killed when gunmen stormed the concert hall in the northern Moscow suburb of Krasnogorsk and then set the building on fire.

It is the deadliest attack in Europe that IS has ever carried out.

There was no statement about the other seven suspects arrested in connection with the mass shooting.

“Machine guns, knives, firebombs”

The Islamic State group posted on Telegram on Saturday that the attack was carried out “by four ISIS militants armed with machine guns, a pistol, knives and firebombs” as part of “the raging war (with) countries that fight Islam.”

According to the intelligence group SITE, a video about a minute and a half long was posted on social media accounts typically used by IS that appeared to have been filmed by the gunmen.

The video – which appears to have been filmed from the lobby of the concert hall – shows several people with blurred faces and garbled voices firing assault rifles as bodies are scattered on the floor and a fire breaks out in the background.

Russian investigators said that after the gunmen walked through the theater and fired on audience members, they set fire to the building, trapping many inside.

Health authorities said the death toll had risen to 182, with 101 people still in hospital, 40 of whom were in “critical” or “extremely critical” condition.

The attack was the deadliest in Russia since the siege of a school in Beslan in 2004. The Emergencies Ministry has so far named 29 of the victims, but the fire has complicated the identification process.

The ministry released a video on Sunday showing heavy equipment arriving at the venue to dismantle damaged buildings and clear debris.

“Morally devastated”

There was shock and sadness on the streets of the capital on Sunday. “It’s a tragedy. I was morally devastated,” Ruslana Baranovskaya, 35, told AFP.

“People are not smiling… everyone feels the loss,” said 73-year-old Valentina Karenina, a pensioner standing on a street in Red Square.

Museums, theaters and cinemas across the country were closed and billboards replaced with commemorative posters.

Mourners continued to flock to the concert hall in northwest Moscow to lay flowers in memory of the victims.

More than 5,000 people donated blood after the attack, officials said. Many of them stood in long lines in front of the clinics.

Abroad, people left floral gifts in front of Russian embassies out of pity. Putin on Saturday vowed “retribution and oblivion” against the “terrorists, murderers and non-humans” who carried out the “barbaric terrorist attack.”

Several of his allies called on the country to lift the moratorium on the death penalty, sparking concern among Kremlin critics.

Putin points to Ukraine

A statement released by Putin on Saturday suggested that Ukraine was linked to the attack.

“(The suspects) tried to escape and traveled towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary information, a window was prepared for them to cross the state border on the Ukrainian side,” Putin said of the attackers in his televised address.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected any suggestion of Kiev’s involvement in his evening speech on Saturday.

Some in Moscow doubted Putin’s claims.

“I am not inclined to believe the version about Ukraine’s involvement… that is more similar to those committed by Islamist extremists,” said Vomik Aliyev, a 22-year-old who often went to the concert hall and said his parents were Muslims.

Washington also rejected any suggestion of Kiev’s involvement.

“ISIS (Islamic State) bears sole responsibility for this attack,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

– with AFP

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