Four Suspected Moscow Attackers Held In Custody After 137 Killed

Russia has ordered four men accused of killing at least 137 people in a massacre at a Moscow concert hall to be detained on “terror” charges, with the death toll sure to rise as more than 100 more are hospitalized.

The men face life in prison, despite Russian officials’ calls to remove a moratorium on the death penalty in order to impose harsher terms.

In a series of late-night court hearings in Moscow that lasted until the early hours of Monday, the four men were brought into court in front of scores of reporters gathered at the capital’s Basmanny district court.

FSB security agents brought one of the men into the court on a medical stretcher, citing claims and images on Russian social media of brutal interrogations after their arrests on Saturday.

The Friday evening incident was claimed by Islamic State, but Russian officials have not commented on their likely involvement.

In his first public remarks since, President Vladimir Putin referenced a Ukrainian connection, claiming that the four alleged gunmen were apprehended while attempting to flee there.

‘Terrorists have no nationality’

A man suspected of taking part in the attack of a concert hall that killed 137 people, the deadliest attack in Europe to have been claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, sits inside the defendant cage as he waits for his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on March 24, 2024.

According to Russian investigators, gunmen dressed in camouflage assaulted the Crocus City Hall concert venue on Friday night, shooting concertgoers before setting fire to the building and leaving the scene.

A spokeswoman for the venue owner told Russian state television on Monday that more than 5,000 people were inside the premises.

It was the worst incident in Russia in two decades, as well as the most lethal in Europe, claimed by IS.

The Moscow court ordered the men to be held in pre-trial detention until May 22, which is likely to be extended until a full trial.

Russia announced Saturday that 11 people had been arrested in connection with the incident. There is no information on the other seven.

Russian state media said that the four suspected gunmen were all Tajik citizens.

The president of Tajikistan, a Central Asian country bordering Afghanistan where IS is known to be operating, reminded Putin in a phone call on Sunday that “terrorists have no nationality.”

Moscow and Dushanbe have agreed to “intensify” counter-terrorism cooperation, according to a Kremlin readout of the call.

The court stated that two of the defendants had pled guilty.

Putin has promised to punish those responsible for the “barbaric terrorist attack” and announced on Saturday that the four gunmen had been apprehended while attempting to flee to Ukraine.

Kyiv has categorically denied any involvement in the incident, while the US has stated that IS bears “sole responsibility”.

According to the most recent toll from Russian authorities, at least 137 people died, including three children.

According to health officials, there were 182 individuals injured as of Sunday evening, with 101 remained in the hospital, 40 of them were in “critical” or “extremely critical” condition.


‘Machine guns, knives, firebombs’

Saidakrami Murodalii Rachabalizoda suspected of taking part in the attack of a concert hall that killed 137 people, the deadliest attack in Europe to have been claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, is escorted by Russian law enforcement officers prior to his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on March 24, 2024.

The Islamic State group announced on Telegram that the attack was “carried out by four IS fighters armed with machine guns, a pistol, knives, and firebombs” as part of “the raging war” with “countries fighting Islam”.

According to the SITE intelligence agency, a video lasting around a minute and a half, which appears to have been shot by the gunmen, has been released on social media sites commonly used by IS.

The footage, which appears to have been shot from the concert venue’s lobby, shows numerous people with blurred faces and garbled voices firing assault guns on the floor, with motionless bodies strewn about. A fire is also visible in the backdrop.

According to Russian investigators, the shooters walked around the theatre and shot attendees before setting fire to the facility, trapping many people inside.

They stated the victims died as a result of gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation.

On Sunday, Russia commemorated a day of national sorrow, with scores of people gathering to drop flowers at the burned-out concert hall in Moscow’s northern Krasnogorsk suburb.

The emergency ministry has identified 29 of the fatalities, but the fire has complicated the process.

Museums, theatres, and cinemas around the country shuttered, and memorial messages were displayed on billboards and advertising screens.

More than 5,000 individuals donated blood in Moscow over the weekend, according to officials, with many waiting in long lines outside clinics.


‘Barbaric terrorist attack’

People throughout the world left floral tributes in front of Russian embassies.

On Saturday, Putin promised “retribution and oblivion” to the “terrorists, murderers, and non-humans” who carried out the “barbaric terrorist attack”.

Critics of the Kremlin have questioned why Russia’s formidable security agencies were unable to prevent the attack, despite public and private warnings from Western intelligence services only two weeks prior.

Late on Sunday, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said that the country had returned to its highest security alert position in the aftermath of the incident, citing “the threats weighing on our country”.

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