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Explained: Why is Russia refusing to comment on ISIS links to the Moscow attack?

Explained: Why is Russia refusing to comment on ISIS links to the Moscow attack?

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on a Moscow concert hall.

Moscow:

The Kremlin on Monday refused to comment on claims by the Islamic State group that it was behind the deadliest attack in Russia in two decades, as rescuers searched for bodies in the rubble of the burned-out Moscow concert hall.

Eleven people were arrested in connection with the attack, in which disguised gunmen stormed into Crocus town hall, opened fire on concert-goers and set the building on fire, killing at least 137 people.

Islamic State jihadists have said they were responsible several times since Friday, and IS-affiliated media outlets have published graphic videos of the gunmen inside the venue.

But in his only public comments on the massacre on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted at a possible connection to Ukraine, and no senior Russian official has commented on the IS claims.

“The investigations are still ongoing. No coherent version has been expressed yet,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday when asked why Russia had not looked into ISIS’s alleged involvement.

“We are only talking about preliminary data. No version has been submitted yet,” he added.

Officials expect the death toll to continue to rise as rescuers searched the site for remains on Monday and 97 remain in hospital.

“Dealing with threats”

Putin has no plans to visit the site of the attack on the northwestern edge of Moscow, Peskov said.

He will hold a meeting later on Monday with Russian security chiefs, government officials and the heads of Moscow and the Moscow region.

The Kremlin also expressed confidence in the country’s powerful security agencies as questions arise as to why they failed to thwart the massacre despite public and private warnings from the U.S. intelligence apparatus.

In a series of overnight court hearings in Moscow that lasted into the early hours of Monday, four of the suspects – with bruises and cuts on their swollen faces – were dragged between dozens of reporters gathered at the capital’s Basmanny District Court.

FSB officers wheeled him into the hearing on a stretcher, his eyes barely open.

Peskov refused to comment on reports and videos on social media that showed bloody interrogations of the suspects after their arrest on Saturday.

The court identified them as Muhammadsobir Fayzov, Shamsidin Fariduni, Rachabalizoda Saidakrami and Dalerjon Mirzoyev.

Russian state media said they were all citizens of Tajikistan.

Two of them pleaded guilty, the court said.

Three other suspects, identified by Russian media as family members Aminchon Islomov, Dilovar Islomov and Isroil Islomov, were taken into custody on Monday.

One of those arrested has Russian citizenship, the Interfax news agency reported.

All detainees have been accused of terrorism and face life imprisonment. The Kremlin has rejected proposals to reintroduce the death penalty.

Clear debris

According to the latest information from Russian investigators, at least 137 people were killed, including three children.

After walking through the theater and firing at audience members, the gunmen set fire to the building, trapping many inside.

According to the Russian Investigative Committee, the victims died from both gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation.

More than 5,000 people were in the concert hall when the gunmen stormed in front of a sold-out rock concert, Russian state media quoted a spokesman for the venue’s owner as saying on Monday.

Rescuers will continue sifting through the rubble and clearing debris from the site until Tuesday evening, said Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the Moscow region.

“The task is to remove the rubble to make sure there are no bodies underneath,” Vorobyov said in a Telegram post.

Putin on Saturday vowed “retribution and oblivion” against the “terrorists, murderers and non-humans” who carried out the “barbaric terrorist attack.”

He said the four attackers were arrested as they tried to flee to Ukraine, where they had secured a “window” to cross the border.

Grief

The FSB said the gunmen had “contacts” in Ukraine, without giving further details.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied any Ukrainian involvement.

The United States, which warned on March 7 of an “imminent” attack by “extremists” in Moscow, said ISIS bore “sole responsibility.”

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned Russia against “exploiting” the attack to blame Kiev.

Russia marked a national day of mourning on Sunday, with dozens of people coming to lay flowers at a memorial to the victims and memorial posters being put up on the sides of buildings and at bus stops across the country.

Russian schools held special classes on “terrorism” on Monday, with children wearing white ribbons in honor of the victims, state television anchors said in a news program.

Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon again condemned the attack on Monday after Russian media reported that the shooters were Tajik citizens.

The attack “calls on all of us, especially parents, to pay even more attention to children’s education,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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