What we know about the Moscow concert hall attack

Russia has been left reeling in the wake of the nation’s worst terrorist attack in decades.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the massacre, which saw armed assailants storm a popular concert venue complex on the outskirts of Moscow, killing more than 130 people.

Nearly a dozen people have been detained in connection with the atrocity, according to authorities. Among them, four suspected gunmen from the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan have been charged with terrorism and remanded into pre-trial detention.

Here’s what we know.

What happened?

Attackers armed with guns and incendiary devices opened fire at random at the Crocus City complex - home to a popular music hall and shopping center - on Friday night.

Crowds were still filing in but the auditorium was already packed with people ahead of a concert by the band Picnic. Some 6,500 tickets had reportedly been sold for the show. But instead of a night dancing away to rock music, sheer chaos unfolded.

Panicked eyewitnesses captured on video the exact moment gunmen, dressed in camouflage fatigues and carrying automatic weapons, started shooting indiscriminately. The footage showed concertgoers screaming and ducking for cover behind cushioned seats while others huddled together as shots echoed through the vast hall.

During the rampage, one group sheltering next to a large wall of windows outside the concert venue were forced to break them to escape the gunfire, video obtained by CNN shows.

An unnamed man who survived the attack said the gunmen entered the concert hall and “started shooting everyone.”

“I was sitting in the hall upstairs where the balconies were. We heard gunshots. At first, we didn’t understand what had happened,” he said in an interview with Ostorozhno Novosti, which was published by Reuters. The attackers threw a Molotov cocktail, and then “everything was set on fire,” he added.

The band’s manager later told state media the performers were unharmed.

A SWAT team was called to the area and more than 70 ambulance teams and doctors assisted victims.

A large fire at Crocus City caused the venue’s roof to partially collapse. Nearly 500 personnel worked to dismantle rubble at the scene, the Russian Emergencies Ministry said.

Law enforcement officers outside the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following the attack on Friday. - Yulia Morozova/Reuters
Law enforcement officers outside the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following the attack on Friday. - Yulia Morozova/Reuters

How many people were killed?

At least 137 people were killed in the terror attack, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee on Saturday. Authorities say that number is likely to rise as emergency responders work through the scene.

Additionally, more than 100 others were injured – with many of them in serious condition, including two children.

Moscow region Gov. Andrey Vorobyov said Saturday the victims would receive financial compensation from the region and city governments.

Relatives of each of those killed would receive 3 million rubles ($32,500), while the injured would receive 1 million rubles ($10,840) each.

“Children registered in the Moscow region whose father or mother died in the tragedy will also receive monthly payments. In addition, we will compensate everyone for burial expenses and resolve all legal issues,” Vorobyov added.

A woman lays flowers at a makeshift memorial on Saturday. - Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images
A woman lays flowers at a makeshift memorial on Saturday. - Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Who was behind the attack?

ISIS claimed responsibility for the assault in a short statement published by the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency on Telegram on Friday.

The following day, the terror group published an image through Amaq purporting to show the four men who had attacked the complex. None of the men were identifiable in the image; all were wearing balaclavas and the rest of their faces are blurred.

ISIS described the attack as the “fiercest in years,” according to a translation of the message by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terror groups’ propaganda.

Amaq also provided details of the attack, saying that three fighters attacked the crowd with guns and knives while the fourth threw incendiary devices. It said the attack was preceded by an intensive surveillance operation of the venue.

“The attack comes within the normal context of the raging war between the Islamic State and countries fighting Islam,” it added, according to SITE’s translation.

The United States had previously warned Moscow that ISIS militants were determined to target Russia in the days before assailants stormed the concert hall.

Earlier this month, the US embassy in Russia had said it was “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow,” including concerts, and it warned US citizens to avoid such places.

US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US government had “shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its longstanding ‘duty to warn’ policy.”

But in a speech on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had blasted the American warnings as “provocative,” saying “these actions resemble outright blackmail and the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.”

Experts said the scale of the carnage would be deeply embarrassing for the Russian leader, who had championed a message of national security just a week earlier when winning the country’s stage-managed election.

Over the past month, Russia has thwarted several ISIS related incidents in March alone, according to state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

There have been at least four reported incidents across Russia that local authorities said involved people connected to ISIS, according to RIA.

Who are the main suspects?

Four men from the ex-Soviet republic of Tajikistan have been remanded into pre-trial detention through May 22 after appearing in court in Moscow on Sunday accused of carrying out the terror attack, according to Russian authorities and state media.

The four, aged in their 20s and 30s, were named as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, Shamsidin Fariduni and Mukhammadsobir Faizov by Moscow City Courts on Telegram.

Three of the men pleaded guilty to committing a terrorist act during closed hearings, according to Moscow courts and state news agency TASS. All four face possible life imprisonment.

Images from the courtroom showed the suspects with bruised faces, including one man wearing a bandage on the right side of his head. Another suspect appeared nonresponsive in a wheelchair and was accompanied by a doctor to court, a Moscow City Court video on Telegram showed.

The Kremlin said earlier that four people believed to be directly involved in the attack had been arrested while trying to cross the border into Ukraine, according to TASS and other state media outlets.

RIA later published the purported confession of one of the men on Telegram. In a brief video, a man with a bloodied, bandaged head, speaks in halting Russian. He gives his name and age of 30. When asked where the weapons from the attack were dropped off, he replies, “I don’t know the city, ask my friends, they know.”

CNN cannot independently verify the veracity of the RIA Novosti report or the statements made by the alleged attacker, which may have been made under duress.

RIA also posted images of three of the alleged attackers after they were detained, which match videos uploaded on unofficial channels earlier Saturday showing the men being apprehended in the southwestern region of Bryansk.

RIA said one of the alleged attackers had mentioned returning to Russia from Turkey earlier this month.

It also reported that the group lived together in a hostel in the north of Moscow and that at least two of the four perpetrators met only “10-12 days ago.” The car they drove to Crocus City Hall and then used to escape had been bought through a family connection.

Earlier, Russian state media reported that the head of the Russian Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, had told the Russian leader that 11 people had been detained in connection with the attack.

What else is Russia saying?

Putin expressed his deep condolences following the shooting, describing it a “bloody and barbaric act” in a video statement released Saturday.

He showed gratitude to emergency service workers who “did everything to save people’s lives, to get them out from under fire, from the epicenter of fire and smoke,” and said agencies were working to establish the details of the massacre.

Putin also appeared to pin the blame on Ukraine for the deadly attack, when he claimed that a “window” was prepared for attackers to escape to Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Telegram: “Now we know in which country these bloody bastards planned to hide from persecution – Ukraine.”

Ukraine strenuously denied any involvement. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Friday: “We consider such accusations to be a planned provocation by the Kremlin to further fuel anti-Ukrainian hysteria in Russian society, 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.”

Ukrainian Defense Intelligence alleged Friday – without giving evidence that the attack was planned by Russian special services to justify increased strikes on Ukraine.

What’s the international response been?

Condemnation of the attack from world leaders has been swift. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday said the US “strongly” condemned the massacre and while passing along “our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and all affected by this heinous crime.”

There were similar sentiments from British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who conveyed that his nation’s “thoughts are with the families of all the victims and all those injured.”

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his country hopes that the attack won’t become “a pretext for anyone to escalate violence and aggression” in a post on X. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed solidarity with all Russians, while India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman both also denounced the attack.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping offered his condolences to Putin on Saturday “over the serious terrorist attack that caused heavy casualties,” according to a report from Chinese state media.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council labeled it a “heinous and cowardly” attack, as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the incident “in the strongest possible terms.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Anna Chernova, Darya Tarasova, Tim Lister, Mariya Knight, Mia Alberti, Jennifer Hauser, Paul Murphy, Matthew Chance, Mary Kay Mallonee, Katherine Grise, Chris Lau, Samantha Waldenberg, Masha Angelova, Josh Pennington and Kathleen Magramo contributed reporting.

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