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Russia says Islamic State behind deadly Moscow concert hall attack, Ukraine ‘directly involved’

WorldRussia says Islamic State behind deadly Moscow concert hall attack, Ukraine ‘directly involved’

Russia on Friday said for the first time that Islamic State coordinated the March concert hall attack in Moscow, the country’s deadliest terror attack in two decades.

“In the course of the investigation … it has been established that the preparations, the financing, the attack and the retreat of the terrorists were coordinated via the internet by members of Khorasan Province (Isis-K),” an Isis branch active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of FSB, was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Isis has claimed responsibility on multiple occasions for the March 22 attack which killed over 140 people, but Moscow has repeatedly tried to link Ukraine and the West to the attack.

Bortnikov said that Ukrainian military intelligence was directly involved in the attack.

“The investigation is ongoing, but it is already safe to say that Ukrainian military intelligence is directly involved in this attack,” the state news agency quoted Bortnikov as saying.

Ukraine has repeatedly denied involvement. Russia has made such allegations before, and Bortnikov did not provide evidence to underpin his assertion.

He also accused the Nato military alliance of faciliting the transfer of “mercenaries and militants of international terrorist organisations from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan” to Ukraine so that they could fight against Russian forces there.

Gunmen in camouflage stormed the Crocus City Hall venue on the outskirts of Moscow before setting the building on fire.

More than a dozen suspects have been arrested including the four assailants, who are all from the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, an impoverished former Soviet republic on Afghanistan’s northern border.

The United States has said it had publicly and privately warned Russia in early March that extremists were planning an attack on a concert hall in Moscow.

Unnamed US intelligence officials told American media outlets after the massacre that they had told Moscow it was the Crocus City Hall specifically that IS was planning to attack.

Russia dismissed those warnings. Just three days before the attack, President Vladimir Putin accused Washington of “blackmail” and trying to “intimidate” Russians.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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