Death toll over 133 in terrorist attack on Moscow

MOSCOW, RU – The death count from Friday’s horrific terror attack at a concert in Moscow has risen to a staggering 133, according to Russia’s leading state investigative agency. As of Saturday, authorities have detained 11 individuals in connection to the attack, four of whom are believed to have been directly involved.

In a televised address to the nation on Saturday, President Putin denounced the attack as a brutal act of terror, declaring Sunday, March 24, a national day of mourning. Following this deadliest attack in over two decades, Putin announced additional security measures across the country.

“All four direct culprits of the terrorist attack, those who murdered people, have been located and detained,” Putin stated. He added that the suspects attempted to flee towards Ukraine, where a possible escape route may have been arranged for them.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, a claim that has been corroborated by U.S. intelligence according to multiple sources. Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation into the incident. However, Putin hinted at a potential Ukrainian connection to the massacre, a claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vehemently denied.

The attack began when gunmen in combat gear stormed the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, where fans were gathered to see the Russian band Picnic. Online videos showed the assailants firing at close range and setting off smoke bombs. The attackers also hurled explosives into the crowd, causing the building to catch fire.

The roof of the concert hall collapsed early Saturday morning after hours of firefighting efforts. In the aftermath, Russians lined up to donate blood and laid flowers at memorials. Putin stated that the Federal Security Service (FSB) and other law enforcement agencies are working to identify the entire terrorist support network.

The FSB confirmed that the attack was meticulously planned, with the weapons used by the terrorists stashed in a cache beforehand. The agency has pointed towards Ukraine, stating that four suspects were apprehended in the Bryansk region of western Russia, close to the Ukrainian border. They allegedly intended to cross the border into Ukraine and had contacts there.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy denied any Ukrainian involvement prior to ISIS claiming responsibility. The attack occurred just days after Putin secured another term in office in a landslide election victory. It is the deadliest attack in Russia in years and comes as the conflict in Ukraine enters its third year.

Putin has expressed wishes for a speedy recovery to all those injured and commended the medical staff. Russian special services continue to conduct search operations. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has canceled all mass events in the capital for the next two days, and several other Russian regions have followed suit.