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Death toll in terrorist attack in Moscow rises to 133, 11 suspects arrested

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The death toll from the terrorist attack on a concert in Moscow on Friday has risen to at least 133, Russia’s top state investigative agency said on Saturday. Authorities said they had arrested 11 suspects, four of whom were directly involved in the attack.

President Putin addressed the shocked nation in a televised broadcast on Saturday, calling the massacre “a bloody, barbaric act of terrorism.” He declared Sunday, March 24, a day of mourning.

Putin said additional security measures had been taken across the country following the attack – the deadliest in over 20 years.

“All four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attack, all those who shot people, have been found and arrested,” Putin said. “They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary information, a window was prepared for them to cross the state border from the Ukrainian side.”

The outside of the Moscow Concert Hall after a terrorist attack

A view of the damage at the Crocus City Hall concert venue near Moscow, Russia, after the fire was extinguished following an armed attack that killed at least 115 people. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Russia is investigating shootings and explosions in the concert hall as a terrorist attack

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement on its affiliated social media channels, and the US has said it has intelligence confirming this, according to multiple media outlets. Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal investigation into the attack.

However, Putin suggested there may have been a Ukrainian connection to the bloodbath. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied any involvement of his country.

The surprise attack began when gunmen in riot gear stormed into the Crocus City Hall in the city of Krasnogorsk, where concertgoers were gathering to hear Russian band Picnic. An online video showed gunmen opening fire, shooting at participants at close range and setting off smoke bombs.

Russian media reported that the gunmen also threw explosives into the concert hall during the attack, shaking the building and setting it on fire. According to Russian media, people were evacuated, but some remained trapped in the burning building.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his address to the nation in Moscow on March 23, 2024. (Mikhail Metzel/Pool/AFP via Getty Images))

The theater’s roof collapsed in the early hours of Saturday as firefighters battled the flames for hours. Russians laid flowers at memorials and lined up to donate blood.

Putin said that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and other law enforcement agencies are working to identify the terrorists’ entire support base.

“Those who provided them with transport, planned escape routes from the crime scene, prepared hiding places, weapons and ammunition depots,” Putin said.

“It is already clear that we are not just dealing with a carefully and cynically planned terrorist attack, but with an organized mass murder of peaceful, defenseless people. The criminals were cold-blooded and wanted to specifically kill and shoot our citizens. “empty field – our children.”

The FSB said the attack was carefully planned.

“The weapons used by the terrorists had previously been placed in a cache,” the FSB noted.

The FSB blamed Ukraine. The Russian Investigative Committee said four suspects were arrested in the Bryansk region in western Russia “not far from the border with Ukraine.”

A gun on the ground after the terrorist attack in Moscow

A screenshot from the Russian Investigative Committee shows a gun on the ground. (Russia Investigative Committee / Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Russia is investigating shootings and explosions in the concert hall as a terrorist attack

They planned to cross the border into Ukraine and had “contacts” there, the state news agency Tass said, citing the Russian FSB.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied any Ukrainian involvement before ISIS claimed responsibility.

“Ukraine certainly has nothing to do with the Crocus City Hall shootings/explosions (Moscow region, Russia). It makes no sense at all,” he said on social media, adding in part: “There is not the slightest doubt about that.” The events in the Moscow suburbs will lead to a sharp increase in military propaganda, accelerated militarization, expanded mobilization and ultimately contribute to the expansion of the war. And also to justify blatant genocidal attacks against the civilian population of Ukraine.”

The attack came just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin consolidated his grip on power with another landslide election victory. The attack was Russia’s deadliest in years and came as the country’s fight in Ukraine dragged into its third year.

Concert hall on fire

A massive fire is seen above the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, on March 22, 2024. Several armed men entered a large concert hall in Moscow and fired automatic weapons into the crowd.

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Putin wished all those injured a speedy recovery and praised the medical staff, said Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova.

“We together with [Russian Health Minister] Mikhail A. [Murashko] “I reported to the president about the health status of the patients, the president wished everyone a recovery and complimented the doctors,” she told reporters.

Russian special services continue to conduct search operations. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin canceled all mass events in the capital for the next two days, and a number of other Russian regions followed suit.

Brie Stimson of Fox News, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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