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US shares blame for Moscow concert hall attack, says Russia's national security council head

The concert hall attack in Moscow on March 22, the deadliest on Russian soil in two decades, claimed the lives of 145 people for which the Islamic State took responsibility. Four gunmen were arrested on Saturday, out of whom three have admitted their guilt amid alleged torture.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Astana (Kazakhstan) Published on: April 03, 2024 22:33 IST
Russia, US, Moscow concert hall attack
Image Source : AP Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev.

Astana: The United States shares blame for the deadly attack on a concert hall in Moscow that killed 145 people on March 22, alleged the head of Russia's national security council on Wednesday, despite a branch of the Islamic State claiming responsibility. This comes as Russian authorities, including President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly blamed Ukraine for the deadliest attack on Russian soil in two decades, albeit without proof.

An affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and Ukraine has consistently denied involvement in the attack. “They are trying to impose on us that the terrorist act was committed not by the Kyiv regime, but by supporters of radical Islamic ideology, perhaps members of the Afghan branch of IS,” security council head Nikolai Patrushev said at a meeting in the Kazakhstan capital Astana of security councils of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

“However, it is much more important to quickly establish who is the customer and sponsor of this monstrous crime. Its traces lead to the Ukrainian special services. But everyone knows that the Kyiv regime is not independent and is completely controlled by the United States," Patrushev said. Russia's emergencies ministry reported the death count at 144, but children's rights ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova reported a sixth child dying in the attack.

Three gunmen admit guilt over attack

Four suspected gunmen were captured the day after the attack in the Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine. Putin and other officials claim that the gunmen had arranged for passage into Ukraine. Six other suspected accomplices have also been arrested. The attack came two weeks after the US Embassy in Russia issued a warning that it was monitoring reports of planned terrorist attacks on public targets.

Three of the four suspects charged with carrying out the concert hall attack have admitted guilt for the incident in a Russian court on Sunday. Moscow's Basmanny District Court formally charged Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, 32; Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, 30; Mukhammadsobir Faizov, 19; and Shamsidin Fariduni, 25, with committing a group terrorist attack resulting in the death of others.

Mirzoyev, Rachabalizoda and Shamsidin Fariduni all admitted guilt after being charged. The fourth, Faizov, was brought to court directly from a hospital in a wheelchair and sat with his eyes closed throughout the proceedings. He was attended by medics while in court, where he wore a hospital gown and trousers and was seen with multiple cuts. There are reports circulating in Russian media that the gunmen were tortured during interrogation by the security services.

The court ordered that the men, all of whom are citizens of Tajikistan, be held in pre-trial custody until May 22. There was a heavy police presence around the Basmanny District Court, which is expected to determine pretrial restrictions for the men, who are suspected of opening fire on crowds of concertgoers at the suburban Crocus City Hall on March 22.

US embassy in Russia warned about possible terror attacks

The US State Department said information about the planned attacks was passed on to Russian officials. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday declined to comment in a conference call on a report in the Washington Post that US officials had specifically identified Crocus City Hall as a potential target, saying that was a matter for security services.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova disdained the report, telling journalists at a briefing, “I would really like to ask you to receive factual material on this topic from the American side. That is, when and to whom did they transmit this information.”

Meanwhile, the Russian prosecutor general's office has sent information requests to the US, Germany, France and Cyprus over Western countries' potential involvement in terrorist attacks on Russia, state-owned TASS news agency reported. 

India expresses condolences

Meanwhile, at the SCO meeting today, Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval strongly condemned the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall in Moscow on March 22, which killed 144 people and conveyed his condolences and India's solidarity with the Russian government and citizens to address the threat from terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. He pointed out that any act of terror including cross-border terrorism committed by whomsoever, wherever and for whatever motives is not justified.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and expressed his deepest condolences. "Spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Conveyed our deepest condolences on the loss of lives in the horrific terrorist attack in Moscow," Jaishankar wrote on the social media platform.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also took to social media and condemned the terror attack on Moscow and said India strongly stands with the solidarity with Russia. "We strongly condemn the heinous terrorist attack in Moscow. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. India stands in solidarity with the government and the people of the Russian Federation in this hour of grief," he wrote.

(with inputs from agencies)

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