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    ISIS Claims Attack on Moscow Concert Hall After Ukraine Blames Putin

    By Jason Lemon,


    ISIS claimed responsibility for Friday's mass shooting in Moscow after Ukrainian intelligence said it believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the assault that killed dozens and injured more than 100, according to Russian-state media reports.

    Several gunmen opened fire at Crocus City Hall, a large music concert venue in the western portion of Moscow Oblast, Russian-state news agency RIA Novosti first reported.

    At least 133 people died, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), as well as top Russian officials, called it a "terrorist attack." Russian authorities said they've detained 11 people connected to the attack, including four who were allegedly directly involved.

    ISIS took responsibility for the attack via its Amaq channel on Telegram. The militant organization, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization, said it was targeting Christians. A U.S. intelligence official said that Washington had learned of plans for an attack by an ISIS branch in Afghanistan and had communicated the information to Russian officials, according to AP.

    However, Ukraine previously claimed that it believed Putin was responsible for the attack on his own people.

    "The terrorist attack in Moscow was a planned and deliberate provocation by the Russian special services at the behest of Putin," the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) said in a Friday post to X, formerly Twitter . "Its purpose is to justify even harder strikes on Ukraine and total mobilization on Russia."

    "This is a conscious provocation of Putin's special services the international community warned us about. The Kremlin tyrant started his career with this and wants to end it in the same way: committing crimes against his citizens," Andrii Yusov, representative of DIU, told Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda .

    Newsweek reached out to the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministries for comment via email on Friday. Newsweek has not been able to independently verify Ukrainian allegations regarding the attack.

    Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the goal of toppling the government in Kyiv. Although Putin and other Kremlin officials believed Russia would quickly take control of the Eastern European nation, the war continues to rage after Ukraine's forces pushed back the initial invasion.

    Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, suggested that Ukraine might be behind the attack.

    "If it is established that these are terrorists of the Kyiv regime, it is impossible to deal with them and their ideological inspirers differently. All of them must be found and mercilessly destroyed as terrorists. Including officials of the state that committed such atrocity," Medvedev wrote in a Telegram post.

    Russia's Investigative Committee said that four of the suspects detained in connection to the attack were taken into custody "not far from the border with Ukraine," AP reported. Tass reported that the suspects allegedly had contacts in Ukraine.

    White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday that there was "no indication at this time that Ukraine, Ukrainians were involved," Reuters reported.

    "On what basis do officials in Washington draw any conclusions in the midst of a tragedy about someone's innocence?" Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, according to Reuters. She said that any information on the attack should be provided to Moscow.

    Ekaterina Zolotova, analyst for Geopolitical Futures, highlighted the "rumors" circulating after the attack in an email sent to Newsweek .

    "Of course, rumors have swirled that it was a Russian false flag operation, or that it was the result of a Ukrainian plot. There's not much to substantiate either right now, and in fact Kyiv has denied any responsibility," she wrote.

    "Identity aside, the attack comes at an especially sensitive time for the Kremlin. It cannot afford to look weak, let alone be weak, during a time of war."

    Just weeks prior, on March 7, the U.S. Embassy issued a warning , advising Americans to avoid concert venues in Moscow.

    "The Embassy is monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts, and U.S. citizens should be advised to avoid large gatherings over the next 48 hours," the alert read .

    Putin and Russian-state security services have previously been accused by Kremlin critics of carrying out a so-called "false flag" operation behind a series of 1999 apartment bombings in Russia . Those attacks were officially credited to Arab militants and supporters of Chechnya opposed to Russia.

    Over 300 were killed in that string of bombings, which were used to propel Putin into power and launch a full-scale war in Chechnya.

    Update 03/22/24, 9:10 p.m. ET: The death toll was heightened and further information was added.

    Update 03/23/24, 7:45 a.m. ET: The death toll was heightened and additional information about detained suspects was added.

    Update 03/23/24, 10:33 a.m. ET: Death toll was raised.

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