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Fatal shooting, major fire and chase: How the massacre in the Moscow concert hall took place

On a Friday evening in a northwestern suburb of Moscow, hundreds of music lovers eagerly awaited a performance by the progressive rock band Picnic.

As the din and din grew louder as the artists took the stage at Crocus City Hall, a sprawling shopping mall and music venue, a devastating act of violence ensued, leaving more than 130 people dead and dozens more injured. It is the deadliest attack in Russia since the 2004 siege of a school in Beslan in which terrorists killed 334 people.

At around 7:40 p.m., a white Renault car pulled up in front of the 6,200-seat concert hall. Men in military uniforms got out of the vehicle, stormed into the foyer and started shooting. Harrowing videos posted on Russian social media showed the attackers calmly walking through the venue and shooting concertgoers at close range as they tried to escape or find a place to hide.

Men in military uniforms calmly walked through the Crocus City Hall venue and opened fire

(via REUTERS)

Armed men are moving toward the doors of the hall in Krasnogorsk, just 12 miles west of the Kremlin

(UGC/AFP via Getty Images)

Bodies could be seen lying motionless on the ground, apparently having been shot by the roaming terrorists. A security guard working at the venue described the moment they entered the building.

“There were three other security guards hiding behind a billboard,” he told the Russian Telegram channel Baza. “And these attackers exceeded a distance of 10 meters [30ft] away from us – they started shooting indiscriminately at people on the ground floor.”

After hearing the crackle of gunfire, concertgoers ran for the exits and pandemonium broke out as people tried to escape the terrorists. Some people used their hands to break through reinforced windows and locked exits as gunfire rang out in the 14-year-old hall just 12 miles (19 kilometers) west of the Kremlin.

After shooting people at the entrance, the men made their way into the hall itself, just as hundreds of people were taking their seats for the sold-out concert.

“Some thought it was some kind of special effect,” said one witness, Anastasia Rodionova. “Then I saw with my own eyes how people fell to the ground and the machine gun fire started.”

The major fire following an explosion on Friday evening

(AP)

Firefighters battled the flames for hours

(AP)

“Your instinct for self-preservation comes out, your eyes widen, [and you think] “Where can I run?” Then someone shouted to us: ‘Get up – don’t lie down, otherwise they’ll shoot us all straight away’.”

Ms Rodionova said some men were able to break a door onto the street and escape. They were informed over the loudspeaker that the concert would be canceled for “technical reasons” and that people would be asked to leave the hall.

“The shots came from behind us,” another witness named Natalya, who was about to enter the stall, told Reuters. “It was loud, like a bang, a firework, but like an automatic explosion,” she said. “I could hear it right behind me, not far away.”

Natalya, who then ran for her life, added: “Everyone was screaming; everyone was running.” Without her coat, she ran through the cold Moscow night to the nearby subway station and escaped. “I experienced terrible feelings,” she said. “It’s just a nightmare.”

The fire destroyed the interior of the venue

(RUSSIAN EMERGENCY MINISTRY/AFP v)

Dozens of bodies were found by rescue workers

(Russian Emergencies Ministry/AFP)

At one point, one of the gunmen set off an incendiary device and explosions could be heard on video footage as the roof of the venue collapsed. Flames engulfed the building and thick black smoke rose into the sky.

Hundreds of firefighters fought for hours to contain the fire, which destroyed the entire hall. All that remained were the charred iron support beams and the steel frames of hundreds of seats.

The Baza Telegram broadcaster, known for its close contacts with Russian intelligence services, said 14 bodies were found on evacuation stairs and 28 bodies in one of the toilets. The bodies of entire families were found, with dead mothers hugging their dead children. According to Russian authorities, they managed to evacuate 100 people who were hiding in the basement.

A Russian soldier from the Rosguardia (National Guard) secures an area as a massive fire is seen above the Crocus town hall

(AP)

A Kalashnikov assault rifle lies on the ground as investigators from Russia’s Investigative Committee examine the crime scene

(AP)

At least 143 people, including three children, have now died following the attack and more than a hundred have been injured as Russians mourn the terrorist attack in their country’s capital.

The militant Islamist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, but the FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency, is apparently trying to pursue a connection to Ukraine. The FSB said “all four terrorists” were arrested on the way to the Ukrainian border and had contacts in Ukraine. It was said that they would be transferred to Moscow.

Russian lawmaker Alexander Chinshtein said the attackers fled in a Renault vehicle that was spotted by police on Friday evening in the Bryansk region, about 200 miles southwest of Moscow. He said they did not follow instructions to stop.

A woman mourns at a makeshift memorial in front of Crocus town hall

(AFP via Getty Images)

He said two were arrested after a chase and two others fled into a forest. The Kremlin report shows that they, too, were later arrested.

Mr. Khinshtein said a pistol, a magazine for an assault rifle and passports from Tajikistan were found in the car. Tajikistan is a predominantly Muslim Central Asian country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

The attack came just days after Vladimir Putin consolidated his grip on power with an elaborately staged electoral landslide. In a statement released on Saturday, the Russian president said that whoever ordered the attack would be punished and that additional security measures would be imposed across Russia.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak denied that Kiev was involved in the attack. He said: “Let’s be honest: Ukraine had absolutely nothing to do with these events.

“We are waging an all-out war with the Russian regular army and with the Russian Federation as a country. And regardless of everything, everything is decided on the battlefield.”

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