Russia’s security services knew of ISIS threat before concert attack, new evidence from investigative body suggests

Mar 29, 2024, 2:52 PM | Updated: 2:54 pm

Several gunmen burst into the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow and fire automatic wea...

Several gunmen burst into the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow and fire automatic weapons at the crowd on March 22 in the deadliest attack on Russia in decades. Mandatory Credit: Dmitry Serebryakov/AP via CNN Newsource

(CNN) — The Kremlin’s security services were aware of an ISIS threat days before a deadly attack on a concert hall near Moscow, Russian intelligence documents obtained by a UK-based investigative organization suggest.

According to the London-based Dossier Center, the documents showed ethnic Tajiks radicalized by ISIS-K – the Central Asian offshoot of the terror group ISIS – could have been involved.

At least 143 people were killed last Friday in the deadliest attack on Russia in decades, when assailants stormed Crocus City Hall with guns and incendiary devices, just before a concert was to be held.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack with statements, photos, and a propaganda video filmed by the attackers.

The Dossier Center is a Russian investigation group backed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled former Russian oil tycoon turned Kremlin critic. It has previously unearthed details about Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime, often using documents and leaks from inside the Russian government.

“A few days before the terrorist attack, members of the Security Council received a warning that Tajik citizens could be used in terrorist attacks on Russian territory,” said the group’s latest report, released on Sunday, referring to the Russian security agency.

“Even before the attack on Crocus City Hall, a source close to the intelligence services told the Dossier Center about this,” it added.

The Kremlin hasn’t responded to CNN’s request for a comment on the Dossier Center report.

Shocking footage of the attack showed how victims fled for their lives and ducked to safety in horror, with the venue transformed into an inferno.

Four suspects, who are from the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan but worked in Russia on temporary or expired visas, appeared in court earlier this week facing terror charges, showing visible signs of injury. Three pleaded guilty, according to Russian media.

Despite relations between Washington and Moscow being at historic lows, the United States warned Russia that ISIS militants were planning to stage an attack in the country.

Earlier in March, the US Embassy warned of an increased threat of terror attacks on Russia, with National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson saying the US had shared this information with Russian authorities under the “duty to warn” policy.

But in a speech just days before the attack, Putin had dismissed the American warnings as “provocative,” saying “these actions resemble outright blackmail and the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.”

Putin, who recently won a stage-managed election to secure another term, has repeatedly suggested, without evidence, that Ukraine had helped orchestrate the attack. Ukraine has repeatedly denied having any links to the attack.

Former Russian lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev, an exiled Kremlin critic, said the latest evidence posed serious questions for the Russian leadership and its security forces.

“We see very clearly that Vladimir Putin could have reacted on numerous warnings,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett Out Front.

ISIS-K claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the Russian embassy in Kabul in 2022.

The following year, German police arrested several people from Tajikistan accused of plotting an attack on Cologne Cathedral, according to the Dossier Center. Suspected ISIS-K members were also arrested in Kyrgyzstan, accused of plotting an attack at an orthodox church.

According to the Dossier Center, Russian law enforcement was monitoring all these reports and “considered the risk” to Russia.

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Russia’s security services knew of ISIS threat before concert attack, new evidence from investigative body suggests