Death toll in Moscow concert hall attack rises to 140 after another victim dies in hospital

Mar 27, 2024, 11:42 AM

A Russian law enforcement officer near the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shoot...

A Russian law enforcement officer near the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident on March 22. (Maxim Shemetov, Reuters via CNN Newsource)

(Maxim Shemetov, Reuters via CNN Newsource)

MOSCOW (AP) — The death toll from last week’s Moscow concert hall attack rose to 140 on Wednesday after another victim died in a hospital, Russian officials said.

That person was one of five still hospitalized in “extremely grave condition,” and the doctors “did everything they could” to save them, Russia’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said.

A total of 80 people injured in the attack remain hospitalized, the official added, and 205 others have sought outpatient medical assistance.

The Friday night massacre in Crocus City Hall, a sprawling shopping and entertainment venue on the northwestern outskirts of Moscow, was the deadliest terrorist attack on Russian soil in nearly 20 years. At least four gunmen toting automatic rifles shot at thousands of concertgoers and set the venue on fire.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the violence, while U.S. intelligence said it had information confirming the group was responsible. French President Emmanuel Macron said France also has intelligence pointing to “an IS entity” as responsible for the attack.

Russia’s Federal Security Service, or the FSB, said it had arrested 11 people the day after the attack, including four suspected gunmen. The four men, identified as Tajik nationals, appeared in a Moscow court on Sunday on terrorism charges and showed signs of severe beatings. One appeared to be barely conscious during the hearing.

3 of 4 suspects charged in Russia concert hall attack admit guilt during court hearing

Russian officials, however, have insisted Ukraine and the West had a role, claims Kyiv vehemently denies. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, of trying to drum up fervor as his forces fight in Ukraine.

FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov also alleged that Western spy agencies could have been involved. “We believe that radical Islamists prepared the action, while Western special services assisted it and Ukrainian special services had a direct part in it,” Bortnikov said, without giving details.

He repeated Putin’s claim that the four gunmen were trying to escape to Ukraine when they were arrested, casting it as proof of Kyiv’s alleged involvement.

But that assertion was undercut slightly by Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who said Tuesday the suspects were headed for Ukraine because they feared tight controls on the Belarus border.

The Islamic State group, which lost much of its territory following Russia’s military action in Syria after 2015, has long targeted Russia. In October 2015, a bomb planted by IS downed a Russian jetliner over the Sinai desert, killing all 224 people aboard, most of them Russian vacationers returning from Egypt.

The group, which operates mainly in Syria and Iraq but also in Afghanistan and Africa, also has claimed several attacks in Russia’s volatile Caucasus and other regions in the past years. It has recruited fighters from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.

On Monday, Putin warned that more attacks could follow, alleging possible Western involvement. He didn’t mention the warning about a possible imminent terrorist attack that the U.S. shared confidentially with Moscow two weeks before the raid.

Three days before the attack, Putin denounced the U.S. Embassy’s March 7 notice urging Americans to avoid crowds in Moscow, including concerts, calling it an attempt to frighten Russians and “blackmail” the Kremlin ahead of the presidential election.

Bortnikov said Russia was thankful for the warning but described it as very general.

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Death toll in Moscow concert hall attack rises to 140 after another victim dies in hospital