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U.S. & U.K. Behind ISIS-Claimed Moscow Massacre

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The head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed on Tuesday that America, Britain, and Ukraine conspired to execute the slaughter of nearly 140 people at a concert hall in the suburbs of Moscow on Friday.

Alexander Bortnikov told reporters, according to the Russian news agency Tass, that it was “true” that the three countries orchestrated the attack based on “factual information we have.”

“This is general information, but they have a long record of this sort,” Tass quoted Bortnikov as saying.

“What is it expected to do to demonstrate its capability? It is expected to carry out sabotage and terrorist acts in the rear. This is what both the chiefs of Ukraine’s special services and the British special services are aiming at. US special services have repeatedly mentioned this, too,” the FSB leader added.

“There have been drone strikes, strikes by uncrewed boats at sea, and incursions by groups of saboteurs and terrorist organizations into our territory,” he claimed, citing them as evidence that “the West and Ukraine are out to cause greater harm to our country.”

A group of gunmen stormed the Crocus City concert hall and mall complex in Krasnogorsk, a suburb of Moscow, on the night of March 22 shortly before a concert by the Russian rock band Piknik, opening fire indiscriminately into the people settling into their seats in the concert hall, those fleeing into hallways and bathrooms, and setting a significant portion of the complex on fire. As of Monday, Russian authorities have confirmed 139 people dead, including three children and 182 injured, but have warned that the death counts may rise as many of those injured are in critical condition and rescuers are still pulling bodies out of the rubble.

The Islamic State (ISIS), a Sunni jihadist terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for the attack, publishing videos allegedly taken by the gunmen as they massacred innocent people in the venue. The government of the United States, which had published a warning to citizens on March 7 to avoid large gatherings in Moscow because of “imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts,” specifically blamed the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the Afghan ISIS affiliate, for the attack.

The Russian government has not publicly identified ISIS as the organization responsible. In an address to the nation on Saturday, strongman Vladimir Putin appeared to blame the government of Ukraine for the attack, stating, “They tried to escape and were traveling towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.”

The Ukrainian government rapidly responded by denying any role in the attack, asserting, “it makes no sense whatsoever.” A Ukrainian “Disinformation” agency then claimed the Russian government may be responsible for the attack.

On Monday, Putin said that “radical Islamists” were responsible for the terrorist assault, without elaborating. He again hinted at Ukrainian involvement but offered no specifics, nor did he attempt to explain the implication that “radical Islamists” had conspired with Jewish Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Islamic State openly advocates for the genocide of all Jewish people, among other groups.

“We also see that the United States, through various channels, is trying to convince its satellites and other countries of the world that, according to their intelligence data, there is supposedly no Kiev trace in the Moscow terrorist attack,” Putin said on Monday, “that the bloody terrorist attack was carried out by followers of Islam, members of the ISIS organization banned in Russia.”

The Russian state propaganda apparatus has supported Putin’s implications that the Ukrainian government – which has endured a Russian invasion, via the formal state military and local proxies, since 2014 – played a role in the attack. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova published an opinion piece this week in which she condemned the United States for asserting that it had information that the Islamic State had executed the killings.

“The American political engineers cornered themselves with their tales that the Crocus City Hall attack was carried out by the ISIS terror group,” Zakharova wrote. “Hence Washington’s daily bailing out of its wards in Kiev, and the attempt to cover itself and the Zelensky regime they created with the scarecrow of the outlawed ISIS.”

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said on Tuesday that American claims of evidence that the Islamic State was involved – which followed a claim to responsibility from the group itself – were “extremely suspicious.”

“A simple question that any person, any Russian citizen could ask: why did these people, these bandits, attempt to escape from Moscow towards the Ukrainian border?” Antonov asked, referring to Putin’s claims, which the Russian state has yet to corroborate with public evidence.

The Russian state propaganda outlet RT published an opinion piece by a former Indian ambassador to Russia Kanwal Sibal on Tuesday similarly accusing America of “trying to deflect attention away from any Ukrainian involvement.”

“The US, and the UK, had in early March warned their citizens in Russia to avoid mass gatherings, concerts etc. Very often countries do issue such advisories as a precaution because they have got a whiff of some terrorist attack being planned,” Sibal wrote. “But, for the White House spokesperson to immediately after the attack in Moscow rule out Ukrainian involvement raises some questions. It is not clear why Ukrainian extremist elements intending to target Moscow would share their plans with the US.”

Russian law enforcement officials have identified four men as responsible for the attack on Crocus City: Dalerjon Mirzoyev, Saidakram Rachabalizodu, Shamsidin Fariduni, and Muhammadsobir Faizov, all Tajik nationals. Russia has arrested three other people – brothers Aminchon and Dilovar Islomov, and father Isroil Islomov – who allegedly sold a getaway car to the attackers a week before the massacre.

On Tuesday, the Moscow court remanded an eighth person, a Kyrgyz man named Alisher Kasimov who allegedly rented an apartment to those arrested over the attack. It remains unclear at press time what charges Kasimov is facing.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.



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