‘People climbed on heads of others to get out’: Eyewitnesses recount horror of Moscow attack

NEW DELHI: In one of the deadliest attacks in Russia in almost two decades, more than 130 people were killed as gunmen barged into a large concert hall in Moscow on Friday and sprayed bullets into the crowd. According to state media reports, Russian authorities have detained 11 individuals in connection with the attack, while the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for it.
The attack took place as crowds gathered for a performance by the Russian rock band Picnic.The bombing left the concert hall in flames with a collapsing roof and was one of the deadliest in Russia in recent years.

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Dave Primov, who was in the hall during the attack, described panic and chaos when the attack began. “There were volleys of gunfire,” Primov told the AP.
“We all got up and tried to move toward the aisles. People began to panic, started to run and collided with each other. Some fell down and others trampled on them,” he said.

Alexei, a music producer, was about to settle into his seat before the start of a rock concert when he heard gunfire and “a lot of screams”.
“I realised right away that it was automatic gunfire and understood that most likely it’s the worst: a terrorist attack,” said Alexei, who would not give his last name.

As people ran towards emergency exits, ‘there was a terrible crush’ with concert-goers climbing on one another’s heads to get out, he added.
Video on social media
Multiple videos have surfaced on social media capturing the chaos. In one video, a girl’s panicked voice records the sound of gunfire as the attack unfolds.
Another video captures someone shouting, “They set fire to the hall, they set fire to the hall! They are shooting from assault rifles!”
Russia Today reported a distressed witness describing the scene and recounting how people fled as the attackers pursued them. “I ran into the bathroom, a stampede started there. It was just horrible,” the girl said.
“It was very scary there; in fact, nothing was visible inside because of the smoke,” she added.
A woman named Marina recounted being at the concert when panic ensued due to gunshots. Marina shared her experience via text message saying that she was standing in line for a concert outside at around 8 pm when people without overcoats started running out of the building, saying they had heard shots. “As soon as I heard automatic rifle shots, I started running, too,” she said.
“Suddenly there were bangs behind us – shots. A burst of firing – I do not know what,” another witness, who asked not to be identified by name, told Reuters.
“A stampede began. Everyone ran to the escalator. Everyone was screaming; everyone was running,” the witness added.
Attackers detained
Russian authorities have detained 11 people following the heinous attack on a Moscow concert hall.
The Investigative Committee of Russia has revealed that four of the detainees were directly involved in the assault, which left the concert venue ablaze and its roof collapsed.
While the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, Russian agencies have hinted at possible links to Ukraine. However, US intelligence officials have confirmed the involvement of the Islamic State group.

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The suspects were apprehended in the Bryansk region of western Russia, near the Ukraine border, with alleged plans to flee into Ukraine. They reportedly had connections in Ukraine, as per Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which briefed President Vladimir Putin on the arrests.
Ukraine denies link to attack
Kyiv said it rejected Russian claims of a Ukrainian link to the attack.
Russia’s FSB security service said it had arrested the gunmen behind the attack while they were trying to flee to Ukraine.
“The versions of Russian special services regarding Ukraine are absolutely untenable and absurd,” Mykhaylo Podolyak, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The FSB had said the perpetrators had “tried to escape, travelling by car towards the Russian-Ukrainian border … the criminals intended to cross the Russian-Ukrainian border and had appropriate contacts on the Ukrainian side.”

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Here’s what transpired during the attack

  • The assault began at around 8:15 pm before a concert by a popular Soviet-era band.
  • Gunmen armed with automatic weapons entered the hall and set it on fire using flammable liquid.
  • Between two and five attackers, dressed in tactical uniforms, opened fire, as reported by emergency services cited by the Interfax news agency.
  • Videos circulated on Russian social media channels showed the chaos inside the hall, with people desperately trying to escape.
  • The death toll has risen to 143, with many still hospitalized and rescue operations ongoing.
  • The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, saying their fighters attacked a large gathering in Moscow and safely retreated to their bases.
  • The Kremlin confirmed the arrest of 11 individuals, including the assailants, some of whom attempted to flee towards the Russia-Ukraine border.
  • In response, Ukraine has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the attack to justify further escalation in the ongoing conflict.

(Reported with inputs from agencies)

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