What We Know About the Moscow Concert Hall Attack

  • Armed individuals attacked a concert hall near Moscow on Friday, Russian state media reported.
  • At least 60 people were killed and more than 100 were injured, according to the news agency.
  • ISIS-K, a branch of the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attack.

At least 60 people were killed and more than 100 injured on Friday in a deadly attack after a group of armed individuals opened fire at the Crocus City Hall music venue near Moscow, Russian state media agency TASS reported, citing the country’s Federal Security Service.

The number of reported casualties would make this one of the deadliest attacks near Russia’s capital in recent years.

Here’s what we know so far:

What happened?

A group of unidentified individuals opened fire at the Crocus City Hall, a music venue located on the western edge of Moscow, on Friday evening.

Though the number of assailants has not yet been determined, videos on social media appeared to show several individuals toting assault rifles as they entered the concert hall, The Associated Press reported.

TASS reported that Picnic, a Russian rock band, was scheduled to perform just before the attack. The concert hall can accommodate about 6,200 people, according to The Associated Press.

More than 60 people were killed, and about 145 were injured, according to the report. Some of the injured included children, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told a local news channel, according to TASS.

An explosion soon rocked the building, TASS reported, starting a fire. The Ministry of Emergency Situations told the Russian news agency that a third of Crocus City Hall was engulfed.

Who is claiming responsibility?

Shortly after the assault, the Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K, a branch of the jihadist group in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement shared with the ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq on Telegram, CNN reported.

According to The New York Times, US officials confirmed the group was responsible.

What is ISIS-K?

ISIS-K, an affiliate of the Islamic State, was formed in 2015 and was mostly made up of estranged Pakistani militants, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), a Washington, DC-based think tank.

The branch is considered to be one of the Taliban’s sworn enemies mainly due to sectarian differences, BI previously reported.

By 2018, the branch was responsible for nearly 100 attacks against Afghanistan and Pakistan civilians, according to CSIS. But the group was thrust into the international spotlight in August 2021 after it carried out a suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that killed 13 US military soldiers and 169 civilians.

ISIS-K is considered “one of the more successful branches” of the Islamic State, Daniel Byman, a counterterrorism and Middle East expert at CSIS, told Business Insider.

Why would ISIS-K target Russia?

ISIS-K’s adversarial relationship with Russia could stem from several major historical conflicts that reflected the country’s brutal treatment of Muslims.

“If you want, you can go back to the Russian conquest of the Caucasus,” Byman said. “And then you could go to the Soviet deportations of Muslim populations” in the 1940s.

Byman told BI he often points to the intermittent wars in Chechnya, a small Muslim republic, in the 1990s and 2000s, during which Chechnya struggled for independence.

Michael Kugelman, a director at the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank told Reuters that ISIS-K “sees Russia as being complicit in activities that regularly oppress Muslims.”

Why did the attack happen now?

Byman said the rationale behind the timing of Friday’s attack is not yet clear, but it often has to do with “operational” reasons rather than symbolic or political purposes.

If ISIS-K is confirmed to have carried out the attack, the group may have done so on Friday simply because they were ready, Byman said.

On March 7, the US embassy in Russia warned Moscow that there were reports of “extremists” with plans to “target large gatherings” near Russia’s capital.

The warning was partly based on intelligence that indicated an ISIS-K presence in Russia, two US officials told The Washington Post.

Three days before the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the warnings, calling them “provocative.”

Colin P. Clarke, an expert on domestic and transnational terrorism for The Soufan Group, a global security consulting firm, told The New York Times that “ISIS-K has been fixated on Russia for the past two years,” adding that the group “accuses the Kremlin of having Muslim blood in its hands.”

Spokespersons for the Kremlin and the US embassy in Russia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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