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Moscow Concert Hall attack: What do we know so far?

Aparna Ramamurthy
March 23, 2024

The attack on Crocus City Hall in western Moscow is one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Russia in decades.

Smoke from fire rises above the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia,
The Investigative Committee said inspection of the concert hall was continuing. Image: Maxim Shemetov/REUTERS

Moscow concert venue Crocus City Hall turned into a scene of horror on Friday evening as several gunmen burst in and opened fire with automatic weapons.  

Dozens were killed, including three children, the Russian Health Ministry said.  

The Russian Investigative Committee has said that the death toll is currently at 115, while several hundred more are receiving treatment for injuries in 17 hospitals across Moscow. 

Scores killed in Moscow concert hall shooting attack

Crocus City Hall 

Crocus City Hall, situated about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the Kremlin, includes a shopping center and conference venue, and the venue has a capacity of 6,200 people. 

Local news outlets reported that a scheduled concert by the rock group Piknik was sold out and just about to begin when the attack happened. 

The hall was inaugurated in 2009, and has hosted several famous faces, including Donald Trump, who brought the Miss Universe beauty pageant to Russia in 2013. 

A view of the Crocus City Hall
The Crocus City Hall was set on fire during the attackImage: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/picture alliance/dpa/TASS

Repeated gunfire 

The attack on the Crocus City Hall began on Friday at around 8 p.m. local time. 

Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti reported that at least three men in camouflage burst into the hall shooting people at point-blank range and throwing incendiary bombs.  

According to eyewitnesses quoted in the Russian media, the attackers fired indiscriminately at anyone in sight. 

The assault left the concert hall engulfed in flames, with part of the roof collapsing. It is considered one of the deadliest incidents in recent Russian history. 

Several video clips of the incident have surfaced on Russian social media platforms. One video on Telegram showed two armed men entering the concert hall. Another video showed dead bodies lying on the ground

A video released by Russia’s investigative committee revealed that the attackers were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and various other munitions. 

Kalashnikov assault rifle
According to state media RIA Novosti, "the weapons used by the terrorists were prepared in advance in a cache"Image: picture alliance/AP

Russian state-run media TASS reported on Saturday morning that everyone inside had been evacuated.

Putin addresses attack 

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed severe punishment for anyone involved in planning the attack.  

"All four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attack, all those who shot and killed people, were found and detained," he said. "They tried to hide and move towards Ukraine." 

He added that the Federal Security Service and other law enforcement agencies are trying to uncover the entire accomplice base of terrorists: conspirators who provided them with transport, outlined escape routes from the crime scene, and prepared caches of weapons and ammunition. 

Even before Putin himself spoke about "Ukrainian trial," some Russian top officials had accused Ukraine of being behind the attack, despite the lack of evidence, and the fact that the "Islamic State" has claimed responsibility.  

"If it is established that the Kyiv regime's terrorists are to blame ... they must be found and ruthlessly destroyed," Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, wrote on his Telegram Channel.   

Ukraine's government has denied any involvement in the attack. 


Russian prosecutors have labeled the attack as "an act of terrorism" and have opened a criminal investigation. 

The attack could be an embarrassment for the Kremlin. 

"For two years, Putin's propaganda has been saying that Russia's main enemy is Ukraine and the West, and now there are grounds to assume that the world is more complex," Mikhail Vinogradov, president of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation, told DW. 

"The Concert Hall attack casts doubt on the effectiveness of the entire system of security forces, which is politically and psychologically important for Putin," Vinogradov said. 

US warning on potential attack 

The US embassy said it had warned the Russian government of a planned terrorist attack in Moscow  potentially targeting large gatherings. 

"The US government shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its longstanding 'duty to warn' policy," White House National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson wrote on X, formerly Twitter. 

Who was behind the attack? 

The so-called "Islamic State Khorasan" claimed responsibility for the attack via an official Islamic State Telegram channel.  

Although the validity of the claim is not verified, various media reports quoting US officials say that Washington had no reason to doubt IS' claim. 

Putin's decision to intervene in the Syrian civil war in 2015 resulted in significant weakening of IS in many parts of the country.

"It is clear that Russia is currently involved in the Syrian conflict, plus there is a fight against radical Islamists within Russia itself," Vinogradov said.   

What is ISIS-K? 

Islamic State Khorasan is a branch of the Islamic State group based in Afghanistan, using an old term for a region that includes parts of Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.  

Known for its brutality, the group has claimed responsibility for various attacks in and around Afghanistan including a deadly assault on the Russian embassy in Kabul in 2022. 

Eleven people detained 

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has said that the terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall was meticulously planned, and efforts are ongoing to uncover all the details of the incident. 

According to the FSB statement, "The activities of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have resulted in the detention of 11 people, including four terrorists, who directly participated in the terrorist attack."

Russian officials also announced increased security measures at Moscow's airports and railway stations. 

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has canceled all mass gatherings, and theaters and museums in the area have been ordered to close for the weekend. 

Moscow terrorist attack an 'embarrassment' for the Kremlin

Other deadly attacks on Russia 

In 1999, a bomb explosion at an eight-story building in southeast Moscow resulted in the deaths of 118 people. Russia attributed the attack to "terrorists," primarily from the Muslim North Caucasus republic of Chechnya. 

In another incident, in 2002, over 800 people were taken hostage by Chechen rebels during a musical at Moscow's Dubrovka theatre. Some 130 hostages lost their lives. 

In 2011, a suicide bombing at Moscow Domodedovo international airport claimed the lives of 37 people. The Caucasus Emirate group claimed responsibility for this attack.