France condemns 'heinous' gun attack on Moscow concert hall

Russia  REUTERS  Maxim Shemetov
MAR 23, 2024 LISTEN
© REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov

France joined other Western countries in condemning a gun attack on a concert hall in the Russian capital on Friday night, which killed more than 60 people and injured over 100. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.

French President Emmanuel Macron "strongly condemns the terrorist attack" on Moscow's Crocus City Hall, said a statement from the presidential palace. 

"France expresses its solidarity with the victims, their loved ones and all the Russian people."

Hundreds of fans were at the hall in a northern suburb of Moscow for a rock concert when, minutes before the music was due to start, armed attackers opened fire.

They are also believed to have thrown a grenade or other explosive, starting a fire that spread throughout the building. 

Panicked spectators rushed for the exits, with some escaping into the basement or onto the roof. 

"The images from Moscow tonight are horrifying," France's foreign ministry wrote in a social media post as the attack unfolded.

"All effort has to be made to determine the causes of these heinous acts."

US warning

Russian authorities on Saturday raised the death toll from around 40 to over 60. They said another 115 people were in hospital, more than half of them in serious condition.  

A statement released by the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, but Russia did not immediately identify who it suspects is to blame.

Authorities said a hunt had been launched for the attackers and that a terrorism investigation was underway.

The European Union and United Nations condemned the attack, along with the United States and other Western countries that – like France – have sided with Ukraine since Russia's 2022 invasion.

The White House deplored the "horrible" events, but said there was no sign of Ukrainian involvement.

The US embassy had said two weeks before the attack that there was a risk of "extremists" targeting mass gatherings in Moscow, including concerts.

Earlier this month, Russian authorities announced that six suspected Islamic State fighters had been killed in an operation in Ingushetia, a small Muslim-majority republic in the Caucasus region.

Russia has been the target of past attacks by Islamic militants, but also mass killings with no clear political link.

(with AFP)