03/23/2024, 21.49
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Moscow massacre: Islamic State claims responsibility, Putin points finger at Kiev

The death toll of the Crocus City Hall attack is growing by the hour: lifeless bodies continue to be extracted. The president spoke on live TV announcing the arrest of the attackers 'on their way to Ukraine'. Kiev's retort: absurd accusations. Khorasan Isis and tensions in the Islamic world of Central Asia.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Lifeless bodies continue to be pulled out of Crocus City Hall, the hall on the outskirts of Moscow that was the scene last night of the worst terrorist massacre in Russia in 20 years. The official death toll has risen to 133, but this number is still largely provisional; while at least 140 people are injured in hospitals, dozens of them in serious condition.

President Vladimir Putin spoke on television this afternoon in an address to the nation. In a televised address to the nation. Putin thanked the doctors and security officers who rescued the victims of the Moscow attack and claimed that all four gunmen responsible for the shooting had been arrested.

He said the attackers 'were trying to flee towards Ukraine', where there would be 'open windows' on the border for them to escape. Announcing a day of national mourning tomorrow, he added that all those who prepared this 'barbaric terrorist attack' would be identified and punished:

'Whoever they are, whoever is leading them,' he concluded, 'we will identify and punish all those who are behind the terrorists. The most important thing now is to prevent those behind this bloodbath from committing a new crime".

Kiev immediately responded to the accusations by calling them 'absurd'. According to Russian security forces, the four were detained in the Bryansk region, almost 400 kilometres south of Moscow, not far from Belgorod and Kursk, in the border area with Kiev. A spokesman for the Ukrainian military intelligence directorate - Andriy Yusov - replied to the BBC that the border area with Ukraine is 'full of special forces and military Suggesting that the suspects were heading from there to Ukraine,' Kiev claims, 'would suggest that they are stupid or suicidal.

Putin, on the other hand, made no reference to the claim published last night by the Islamic State on its online information organ Amaq. A declaration considered reliable by many observers, both because of the way the massacre was carried out and because of the intention repeatedly declared by the Islamist group to strike Russian targets.

According to this track, it was militiamen of the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) group, which takes its name from an ancient term for the region that included parts of Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. This branch of the radical Islamist movement has emerged in eastern Afghanistan since late 2014 and has rapidly established itself with actions of extreme brutality, especially against Shia minorities.

ISIS-Khorasan has a long history of attacks, including against mosques, inside and outside Afghanistan. Earlier this year, the group claimed responsibility for twin bombings in the Kerman cemetery in Iran that killed nearly 100 people on the anniversary of the killing of Revolutionary Guard leader Qassem Soleimani.

In September 2022, they had also claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing of the Russian embassy in Kabul. Khorasan ISIS also counts on a network of its own militiamen in Central Asian countries, where tensions with radical Islamist movements are growing in the shadow of repression by local authoritarian regimes. 

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