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Macron says intelligence shows Islamic State was behind Russia concert attack

FRANCE joined the United States in saying intelligence indicated Islamic State was responsible for an attack on a concert hall outside Moscow that killed 137 people, while Russia continued to suggest that Ukraine was to blame.

In the deadliest attack inside Russia for two decades, four men burst into the Crocus City Hall on Friday night, spraying bullets during a concert by the Soviet-era rock group Picnic. Alongside the dead, 182 people were wounded.

Four men, at least one a Tajik, were remanded in custody on terrorism charges. They were led separately into a cage at Moscow’s Basmanny district court.

Islamic State said it was responsible for the attack, a claim that the United States has publicly said it believes. The hardline Islamist militant group has released what it says is footage from the attack. U.S. officials said they had warned Russia this month of intelligence about an imminent attack.

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French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters: “The information available to us…as well as to our main partners, indicates indeed that it was an entity of the Islamic State that instigated this attack.”

“This group also tried to commit several actions on our own soil,” he said during a visit to French Guiana.

U.S. officials say their intelligence indicates it was the Afghan affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), that was responsible.

PUTIN HAS NOT MENTIONED ISLAMIC STATE

President Vladimir Putin has not publicly mentioned Islamic State in connection with the attackers, who he said had been trying to escape to Ukraine.

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Putin said some people on “the Ukrainian side” had been prepared to spirit them across the border. Ukraine has denied any role and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Putin of seeking to divert blame, something Macron said was a mistake.

“I think that it would be both cynical and counterproductive for Russia itself and the security of its citizens to use this context to try and turn it against Ukraine,” Macron said, adding that France had offered cooperation to help find the culprits.

The White House on Monday dismissed Russian claims that the attack was linked to Ukraine.

“There was no linkage to Ukraine. This is just more Kremlin propaganda,” White House spokesman John Kirby said in Washington.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova earlier questioned the U.S. assertions that Islamic State, which once sought control over swathes of Iraq and Syria, was behind the attack.

Writing in the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, she said the United States was evoking the “bogeyman” of Islamic State to cover its “wards” in Kyiv, and reminded readers that Washington had supported the mujahideen fighters who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia could not comment on the Islamic State claim while the investigation continued, and would not comment on the U.S. intelligence, saying it was sensitive information.

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Since the attack, hundreds of Russians have laid flowers outside the Crocus City Hall to remember the victims.

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Picnic, the band who had been due to perform on Friday, will stage a memorial concert in St. Petersburg on Wednesday together with a symphony orchestra in aid of the victims, the city’s Oktyabrskiy concert hall announced.

Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda, a suspect in the shooting attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue, is escorted after a court hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, Russia March 24, 2024. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

VIDEO SHOWS PART OF SUSPECT’S EAR BEING CUT OFF

Putin said 11 people had been detained, including the four suspected gunmen who he said had fled the concert hall and made their way to the Bryansk region, about 340 km (210 miles) southwest of Moscow, to slip across the border to Ukraine.

Unverified videos of the suspects’ interrogations circulated on social media. One of the suspects was shown having part of his ear cut off and stuffed into his mouth.

One man, a Tajik named Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, leaned against the glass cage as the terrorism charge was read out. Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, his ear in bandages, remained sitting.

Muhammadsobir Fayzov appeared in hospital clothes and sat in a medical chair, his face covered in cuts. Shamsiddin Fariduni stood, his face bruised.

Peskov left a journalist’s question about the treatment of the detainees unanswered.

Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, triggering a major war after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on one side and pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian proxies on the other.

The U.S. and its European allies have supported Ukraine, extending billions of dollars of money, weapons and intelligence in a bid to defeat Russian forces.

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By The African Mirror

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