Russia still contesting US claim about ISIS-K hand in Moscow terror attack

Four heavily armed individuals, including a Tajik national, stormed a concert hall in Moscow on 22 March, killing nearly 140 people

Representative image of an IS rally
Representative image of an IS rally

NH Digital

Russia has contested the claims made by the United States that the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K) was the perpetrator of the 22 March attack on Moscow's Crocus City Hall, which killed nearly 140 people and left over 180 injured, some of them critically.

Four heavily armed individuals, including a Tajik national, stormed the concert hall, spraying spectators with bullets and setting off explosives during a concert by the popular rock group Picnic.

Terrorist group Islamic State (IS) had claimed in a Telegram message that the attack was "carried out by four of its terrorists armed with machine guns, a pistol, knives and firebombs" as part of "the raging war" with "countries fighting Islam".

Going against the widely circulated notion of an ISIS-K hand in the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin had hinted at a possible Ukraine angle, calling the US input 'provocative'. “They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border,” international news agencies quoted the Russian leader as saying.

This is in line with the current Russia-Ukraine conflict, triggered by Putin's order of a full-scale invasion of Russia's much smaller neighbour in February 2022, following eight years of almost constant conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on the one hand and pro-Russian Ukrainians and their Russian backers on the other.

In an article in the government-backed Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused the US of evoking the "bogeyman" of the Islamic State to take attention away from its "wards" in Kyiv (alluding to US and European support and aid to Ukraine), and reminded the world that Washington had supported the "mujahideen" fighters who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

"Attention — a question to the White House: are you sure it's ISIS? Might you think again about that?" news agency Reuters quoted Zakharova as writing in the article.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has told the media that Russia could not comment on the Islamic State claim since the investigation is ongoing, and would not comment on the US intelligence input either, saying it was "sensitive information".

Is this a desperate bid to pin blame on Ukraine, a ploy to cover up Russia's own potential intelligence failure, or could the Russians actually be correct? A clearer picture should emerge in the coming days.

Meanwhile, two of the accused in the incident on Monday pleaded guilty to being involved in the worst atrocity on Russian soil in more than two decades, according to court authorities in Moscow. All four accused are to be detained until 22 May. 

In a separate message, French President Emmanuel Macron today joined the US in claiming that according to intelligence received, the Islamic State was responsible for the attack.

"The information available to us... as well as to our main partners, indicates indeed that it was an entity of the Islamic State which instigated this attack," Reuters quoted Macron as saying. "This group also tried to commit several actions on our own soil," Macron also said.

France raised its terror alert warning to its highest level on Sunday following the shootings in Moscow.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines