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Emergency services personnel and police work at the scene of the gun attack at the Crocus City Hall concert hall in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on 23 March 2024. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

Four Men Accused of Terrorist Attack in Moscow Brought to Court

Four suspects accused of direct involvement in the 22 March terrorist attack of a concert hall in Russia appeared in a Moscow court on Sunday, 24 March. The attack is the deadliest to occur on Russian soil in years.

The attack occurred during a sold-out show for Picnic, a band popular in Russia since the early 1980s. Crocus City Hall, an entertainment and shopping complex in Moscow, includes a concert venue that can seat 6,200 people.

At least four men, armed with automatic weapons, opened fire in the building minutes before the show was scheduled to start, and then started a fire in the auditorium. The fire resulted in the collapse of the building’s roof.

Rescue efforts began the night of the attack and ended late the following evening, according to NPR. Casaulties from the attack currently stands at 137 people dead and more than 180 others injured.

Although Russian officials eyed Ukraine for the attack, an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization claimed responsibility on 23 March. In the statement, the group said the attack was carried out by four men who were armed with automatic rifles, firebombs, knives, and a pistol. The group said the attack was part of IS’s war against countries fighting against Islam.

Four suspects were arrested, and later identified as Tajik nationals. According to Russian media, the men have been charged with terrorism and could receive life in prison. The men will be held in custody until 22 May, pending an investigation and trial, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

“They appeared before a Moscow court on Sunday night showing signs of severe beatings,” according to the AP. The injuries ranged in severity, from bruises on their faces to one suspect appearing in court in a wheelchair who was brought from an intensive care unit. At least two of the men have admitted to involvement in the attack. Russian media reported that they were tortured during an interrogation, including one suspect having his ear cut off, according to the AP. The injuries have left some questioning the veracity of the guilty pleas.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which apprehended the men, said the four suspects were heading for Ukraine, although no evidence supporting this claim was presented. Ukraine has denied any involvement in the attack.

Another seven people have been detained over suspected involvement in the attack.

The chaotic attack is widely viewed as a dent in President Vladimir Putin’s image. Putin, who was just elected to his fifth term as president, heavily promises security for Russians and paints himself as a guarantee of stability for the nation.

U.S. intelligence confirmed the IS affiliate’s claim, and reported that it had shared information with Russian officials in early March about a planned terrorist attack. However, Jack Kirby, U.S. national security communications advisor, clarified that the previous warning was not related to this specific attack and that the United States did not have prior knowledge about the attack on Friday night, according to Axios.

The previous warning, which came from the U.S. embassy in Russia, cautioned that extremists were planning an attack on crowded areas and events in Moscow.