top of page

The Events and Aftermath of the Crocus City Hall Terrorist Attack

Written by Akshar Patel Edited by Rebecca Oxtot and Annika Lilja


On Friday, March 22nd, four gunmen stormed into Crocus City Hall, a crowded mall and concert venue in Northwest Moscow. Firing indiscriminately at civilians with Kalashnikov-style rifles, the gunfire produced a massive panic throughout the building as civilians trampled over each other in an effort to escape. Footage from Telegram, a social media platform popular in the former Soviet Union, showed the assailants slitting the throats of their victims while others tried to flee. Soon after, the terrorists used incendiary devices—likely petrol bombs, according to eyewitness accounts collected by the BBC—to set fire to the roof of the venue, leading it to collapse in on itself. 


As Russian Special Forces arrived on the scene, the attackers fled in a white Renault sedan eastwards of Moscow, which led Russian officials to allege they were rushing towards the Ukrainian border. Two of the suspects were caught in the car, while the rest fled into a nearby forest. All four were eventually caught, however, and subjected to brutal torture. One video posted on Telegram showed Russian police forcing one of the alleged attackers, later identified as Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda, to eat his own ear after they cut it off.


Initially, Russian pundits and state media blamed everyone from Ukranian operatives to anti-Putin militias like the RDK. However, as the gunmen were caught, they were discovered to be Tajik nationals affiliated with the Islamic State - Khorasan Province (IS-K), an offshoot of the infamous terrorist organization ISIS. Along with a video published by the Afghanistan-based group showing a first-person view of the crime, this would confirm an earlier claim made by IS-K that they were behind the likely religiously motivated attack. Officials in Russia published that the assailants were not Russian citizens, but Tajik. In response to this, the president of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, denied any involvement, stating that “terrorists have no nationality, no homeland and no religion” in a phone call made with the Russian president Vladimir Putin according to the Moscow Times.


Appearing heavily beaten and injured in court, the four men Russia accused of the crime have been named as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda, Shamsidin Fariduni and Muhammadsobir Fayzov. Already, two have confessed to their guilt, leading to a life sentence for charges of terrorism. Although Russia prohibits the death sentence, the BBC has reported that several senior officials have called for an exception to be made.


However, even with the capture of the gunmen, the damage had already been done. Russian sources say that as of March 23, 133 civilians had been killed and over 140 had been injured—including 3 children. Families of the victims and sympathetic Russians sorrowfully laid flowers in huge memorials outside the venue. 


International organizations and countries from across the world were quick to condemn IS-K’s actions. On the evening of March 22nd, The UN Security Council referred to the attack as “heinous and cowardly,” while the next day, Farah Dakhlallah, a spokesperson for NATO, expressed the alliance’s “...deepest condolences to the victims and their families” on X, formerly Twitter. Across the world, countries ranging from the U.S. and Ukraine to China, Armenia, and Kazakhstan expressed their solidarity with the victims. Even other Islamist groups such as Hamas and the Taliban condemned the attack, with Al Jazeera reporting that Taliban’s Foreign Ministry referred to the shooting as “a blatant violation of all human standards” in a post on X.


With the shooting occurring less than a week into Vladimir Putin’s fifth term, it remains to be seen whether he is ready to face the backlash. In exchange for limiting freedoms and rights, Putin promised security and national glory to the Russian people. With this recent attack, this promise has become weaker and less certain. The US Institute of Peace reports that during the war, Russia has given up pretending to be a democracy and cracked down on opposition, indicating that public unrest has risen enough to warrant such measures. The US embassy in Russia, as many Telegram channels have pointed out, had warned of an attack two weeks prior–but Putin publically dismissed the warning, claiming they were efforts to destabilize Russia.


Since the attackers were not Russian, but Tajik, a Muslim minority group from Central Asia, there has been a large rise in cases of xenophobia in Russia. Tajik taxi drivers reported clients refusing to ride with them when discovering they were Muslim, and Russian pundits have begun to spout anti-immigrant rhetoric. According to The North Caspian Report, pro-Putin war correspondents like Nikolai Sevostianov have even called Muslims in Russia an “enemy army in our own cities.”


However, Putin seems to be trying to redirect the anger towards Ukraine. He and several other officials repeatedly brought up the notion that the Kyiv government was implicated in the shooting in some way. The Investigative Committee of Russia, the head law enforcement agency, alleged that they discovered images of “people in camouflage uniforms with the Ukrainian flag” on a suspect’s phone. However, they did not post any evidence of said photos or back their claim up in any way. The Associated Press reported that Zelenskyy furiously denied any involvement, stating, “They are burning our cities — and they are trying to blame Ukraine” on X the Saturday after the attack. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Russia must now face the prospect of terrorism on top of its war in Ukraine.


 

Sources:


“‘Heinous, Cowardly’: World Reacts to Attack on Moscow Concert Hall.” Al Jazeera, 23 Mar. 2024, www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/23/world-reaction-to-the-attacks-on-moscows-crocus-city-hall.


“‘Terrorists Have No Nationality’ Tajik President Tells Putin.” The Moscow Times, 24 Mar. 2024, www.themoscowtimes.com/2024/03/24/terrorists-have-no-nationality-tajik-president-tells-putin-a84602.


Atkinson, Emily. “Moscow Attack: Putin Says All Four Suspects Arrested after 133 Killed at Concert Hall.” BBC News, 23 Mar. 2024, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-68646380.


Baker, Graeme, and Robert Greenall. “Moscow Attack: Russian Court Charges Four Men with Act of Terrorism.” BBC, 24 Mar. 2024, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-68652380.


Balsamo, Michael. “Russia Says 60 Dead, 145 Injured in Concert Hall Raid; Islamic State Group Claims Responsibility.” Associated Press, 22 Mar. 2024, apnews.com/article/russia-moscow-gunmen-concert-hall-injuries-fe7db5bb4ad4df17b6cbd04a3250faa1.


Corera, Gordon. “Moscow Attack: Did Russia Ignore US ‘Extremist’ Attacks Warning?” BBC, 23 Mar. 2024, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-68646375.


Chen, Heather, et al. “Death Toll in Concert Hall Attack Rises to 137 — Including 3 Children, Russian Investigative Committee Says.” CNN, 24 Mar. 2024, www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/moscow-russia-shooting-03-24-24/h_f3c7b3879c6fbad86c2dc98bba978e9c.


Glantz, Mary. “Ukraine War Takes a Toll on Russia.” United States Institute of Peace, 11 Mar. 2024, www.usip.org/publications/2024/03/ukraine-war-takes-toll-russia.


“Hamas Condemns Terror Attack in Russia, Sparking Online Criticism.” The Times of India, 24 Mar. 2024, timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/hamas-condemns-terror-attack-in-russia-sparking-online-criticism/articleshow/108747079.cms. Accessed 25 Mar. 2024.


Knight, Mariya. “Shooting and Blast Reported inside Concert Hall in Moscow Region.” CNN, 22 Mar. 2024, www.cnn.com/2024/03/22/europe/crocus-moscow-shooting/index.html.


“Putin Says Gunmen Who Raided Moscow Concert Hall Tried to Escape to Ukraine. Kyiv Denies Involvement.” Associated Press, 23 Mar. 2024, apnews.com/article/russia-moscow-krasnogorsk-gunmen-concert-hall-fire-97e321c3c477ece36d4fb32f50fa0e8a.


Rosenberg, Steve. “All Four Suspects Arrested after Crocus City Hall Shootings, Russia Says.” BBC News, 22 Mar. 2024, www.bbc.com/news/live/world-68642036.


Shabashewitz, Dor. “Xenophobia on the Rise in Russia after Moscow Concert Attack.” North Caspian Report, 24 Mar. 2024, northcaspian.org/reports/xenophobia-moscow. Accessed 25 Mar. 2024.


“Taliban Condemns Terrorist Attack on Concert Hall in Russia.” Tehran Times, 23 Mar. 2024, www.tehrantimes.com/news/496395/Taliban-condemns-terrorist-attack-on-concert-hall-in-Russia. Accessed 25 Mar. 2024.


“What We Know about the Attack on a Moscow Concert Hall.” BBC, 23 Mar. 2024, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-68645755.


“Who Was Behind the Massacre in Moscow?” The Economist, 22 Mar. 2024, www.economist.com/europe/2024/03/22/who-was-behind-the-massacre-in-moscow.



Comentarios


bottom of page