Russia mourns victims of deadly concert hall attack By Reuters

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© Reuters. The Russian flag is seen lowered at the headquarters of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, on a day of mourning, announced following the deadly shooting at the Crocus City Hall concert hall, in Moscow, Russia March 24, 2024. REUTERS/ Shamil

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By Guy Faulconbridge and Lidia Kelly

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia lowered its flag to half-mast on Sunday for a day of mourning after dozens of people were killed with automatic weapons at a rock concert outside Moscow in Russia’s deadliest attack in two decades.

President Vladimir Putin declared a national day of mourning after vowing to track down and punish all those responsible for the attack, which killed 133 people, including three children, and injured more than 150.

“I offer my deepest condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones,” Putin said in a speech to the nation on Saturday, his first public comment on the attack. “The whole world and all our people sympathize with you.”

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, but Putin has not named a terrorist group related to the militants who are said to be fleeing Ukraine. crossing the border.

Ukraine has repeatedly denied any role in the plot, which Putin has also condemned as “international terrorism”.

People laid flowers at Crocus City Hall, a 6,200-seat concert hall outside Moscow where four armed men entered on Friday before the rock band Soviet Picnic performed their hit “Afraid of Nothing”.

The men fired their automatic weapons briefly at the terrified civilians who fell screaming in a hail of bullets.

It was the deadliest attack on Russian territory since the Beslan school siege in 2004, when Islamist militants took more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children, hostage.

Long lines formed in Moscow on Saturday to donate blood.

In the southwestern city of Voronezh, people were laying flowers and lighting candles at a memorial for children who died there during World War II, along with those who died in the attack near Moscow.

“We, like the whole country, are with you,” the governor of the Voronezh region, Alexander Gusev, said on the Telegram messaging app.

FIRE PEOPLE

Putin said 11 people had been arrested, including four terrorists, who fled the concert hall and headed for the Bryansk region, about 340 km (210 miles) southwest of Moscow.

“They tried to hide and move to Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them to go to Ukraine to cross the state border,” Putin said.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said the terrorists were linked to Ukraine and were caught near the border.

Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, triggering a major European war after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on one side and Russian proxies on the other. .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was similar to Putin and “other criminals” seeking revenge.

In a video published by the Russian press and the Telegraph channel, which is very close to the Kremlin, one of the suspects said that he was paid to do this.

“I shot people,” the suspect, with his hands tied by his hair and an interrogator, a black boot under his chin, said in poor and familiar Russian.

When asked why, he said: “Money.” The man said that he was promised half a million rubles (a little over $5,000). One was shown answering questions through a Tajik interpreter.

Islamic government

The Islamic State group, an Islamic group that once wanted to control parts of Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s Amaq group reported on the Telegraph.

Putin changed the course of the civil war in Syria by intervening in 2015, supporting President Bashar al-Assad against the opposition and the Islamic State.

It is unclear why the Islamic State chose this time to attack Russia.

The White House said the US government shared information with Russia earlier this month about the planned attack in Moscow, and issued an advisory to the Americans in Russia on March 7. It said the Islamic State was solely responsible.

“There was no involvement in Ukraine,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

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