World News 24 Mart 2024

Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'

Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'

Vladimir Putin has claimed the gunmen behind the Moscow concert hall terror attack attempted to flee to Ukraine in the aftermath of the mass shooting.

The allegation, made by the Russian president during an address to the nation, came despite the Islamist terror group Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) claiming responsibility for Friday night’s attack, in which at least 130 people were killed.

Ukraine strongly denied any involvement in the shooting, which comes two weeks after the US shared intelligence with Russian security officials warning that “extremists” had imminent plans for an attack in Moscow.

In an address to the nation on Saturday, Mr Putin described the shooting as a “bloody and barbaric terrorist attack”.

He also claimed that Russia had intelligence which suggested Ukraine had prepared a “window” to allow the gunmen across the Ukrainian border.

“All four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attack, all those who shot and killed people, were found and detained,” Mr Putin said.

“They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.”

Moscow shooting latest: Putin says terrorist ‘tackled by spectator’

Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'
Image:
Footage from the attack

Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'
Image:
A Kalashnikov assault rifle lies on the ground as officials from the Investigative Committee of Russia investigate the attack. Pic: AP

He also declared Sunday as a day of mourning and said those responsible could “expect only one thing, they can expect punishment”.

On Saturday afternoon, officials in Russia said at least 133 people had died in the attack on the 6,000-capacity Crocus City Hall, in the western Moscow suburb of Krasnogorsk – making it the second-deadliest single terror attack in Russia’s history.

As concert-goers gathered in the hall, the four men, armed with Kalashnikov automatic weapons, arrived in a minivan and walked calmly towards the metal detectors, before opening fire on civilians, often at point-blank range.

Russian investigators said the men began to set fire to the building during the shooting.

Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'
Image:
A Russian National Guard serviceman in front of Crocus City Hall. Pic: AP

Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'
Image:
A massive blaze is seen at the Crocus City Hall. Pic: AP

Hours later, IS-K, a regional branch of the Islamic State militant group operating in Central Asia and Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group’s Amaq news agency said on the social media site Telegram that the attack came “within the context of a raging war between the Islamic State and countries fighting Islam”.

Central Asia is a fertile recruiting ground for IS-K, as are the restive republics of the Russian Federation, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya.

The group claims Mr Putin and his regime are killing Muslims and have previously pointed to Russia’s military operations in Chechnya, Syria, and Afghanistan.

Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'

Russia’s interior ministry said all four of the gunmen were foreign nationals, but did not specify which country they were from.

Some of the suspects were shown being interrogated on the side of the road in footage published by Russian media and Telegram channels with close ties to the Kremlin.

Russian media said the men had fled the scene in a white car and that the men were detained in the Bryansk region, about 210 miles (340km) southwest of Moscow.

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Putin vows to ‘punish’ terrorists

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Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'
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Following the attack, two anonymous US officials said Washington had intelligence confirming Islamic State’s claim of responsibility.

They also said the US had warned Russia in recent weeks about the possibility of an attack – ahead of the US embassy in Moscow issuing a warning to Americans in the city.

What is IS-K and why would it target Russia?


Putin claims Moscow terror attackers 'attempted to flee to Ukraine'
Alex Rossi

International correspondent

@alexrossiSKY

Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) has taken credit for attacks by other terror networks in the past, but it is almost certainly behind the deadly assault in Russia, though nothing is impossible.

The group has claimed responsibility, and the chatter picked up by Western intelligence services in the days leading up to the atrocity also indicated something was coming.

The number of people killed in Friday’s shooting near Moscow is grim and likely to keep climbing.

Many people presumed Islamic State (IS) had been neutered, but it has been growing in strength in recent years, particularly IS-K.

Click here to read Alex Rossi’s full analysis

“We did warn the Russians appropriately,” one of the US officials said.

Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov, meanwhile, denied any Ukrainian involvement.

“Ukraine was of course not involved in this terror attack,” he told Reuters.

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Why would Islamic State attack Russia?

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also said on X: “Ukraine has never resorted to the use of terrorist methods.

“Everything in this war will be decided only on the battlefield.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign ministry accused Moscow of using the attack to “further fuel anti-Ukrainian hysteria in Russian society”.

“We consider such accusations to be a planned provocation by the Kremlin to… create conditions for increased mobilization of Russian citizens to participate in the criminal aggression against our country and discredit Ukraine in the eyes of the international community,” the ministry said in a statement.

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