Putin vows retribution for deadly Moscow concert hall attack

Update Putin vows retribution for deadly Moscow concert hall attack
In this pool photograph distributed by the Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers his address in Moscow on March 23, 2024, the day after a gun attack on the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk. (AFP)
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Updated 24 March 2024
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Putin vows retribution for deadly Moscow concert hall attack

Putin vows retribution for deadly Moscow concert hall attack
  • Kyiv strongly denies any connection to the attack that killed more than 130

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday vowed to punish those behind the “barbaric terrorist attack” on a Moscow concert hall that killed more than 130, saying four gunmen trying to flee to Ukraine had been arrested.
Kyiv has strongly denied any connection, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accusing Putin of trying to shift the blame onto them.
Putin, in his first public remarks on the attack, made no reference to a statement by the Daesh group claiming responsibility.
At least 133 people were killed when camouflaged gunmen stormed the Crocus City Hall, in Moscow’s northern suburb of Krasnogorsk, and then set fire to the building on Friday evening.
The Daesh group wrote on Telegram Saturday that the attack was “carried out by four Daesh fighters armed with machine guns, a pistol, knives and firebombs,” as part of “the raging war” with “countries fighting Islam.”

Daesh video

A video apparently shot by gunmen who carried out the deadly attack has been posted on social media accounts typically used by the group Daesh, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.


The video, which lasts a minute and a half, shows several individuals with blurred faces and garbled voices, armed with assault rifles and knives.
They appear to be at the lobby of the Crocus City Hall concert venue in Krasnogorsk, northwest of the Russian capital.
The attackers fire several bursts of gunfire, numerous inert bodies are strewn about and a fire can be seen starting in the background.
The video appeared on a Telegram account considered, according to the SITE monitoring group, to belong to Amaq, the news arm of Daesh.

‘Deadliest attack’
It is the deadliest attack in Russia for almost two decades and the deadliest in Europe to have been claimed by Daesh.
Russian officials expect the death toll to rise further, with more than 100 wounded in hospital.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said rescue workers were still pulling bodies from the burnt-out building on Saturday.
The emergency situations ministry has so far named 29 of the victims, the blaze having complicated the process of identification.
“Terrorists, murderers, non-humans ... have only one unenviable fate: retribution and oblivion,” Putin said in his televised address Saturday.
Calling the attack a “barbaric, terrorist act,” he said “all four direct perpetrators ... all those who shot and killed people, have been found and detained.”

‘Blame game’
Russian television showed security services interrogating four bloodied men, who spoke Russian with an accent, on a road in the western Bryansk region, which borders both Ukraine and Belarus.
“They tried to escape and were traveling toward Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border,” said Putin.
Putin also compared the attackers to “Nazis” and said the attack was an “atrocity, a strike against Russia and our people.”
Zelensky, in his evening address Saturday, dismissed the suggestion that Kyiv had been involved.
“What happened yesterday in Moscow is obvious,” he said. “Putin and the other scum are just trying to blame it on someone else.”
“They always have the same methods. It has happened before. There have been bombed houses, shootings, and explosions. And they always blame others,” he added.
Russia has arrested 11 people in connection with the attack, the FSB security service said. Earlier, the agency had said the attackers had “contacts” in Ukraine, without elaborating.

‘Mourning’
Putin named Sunday a day of national mourning.
And he promised: “All the perpetrators, organizers and those who ordered this crime will be justly and inevitably punished.”
The Investigative Committee said the death toll had so far reached 133 and the governor of the Moscow region said rescuers would continue to scour the site for “several days.”
Some 107 people were still in hospital, many in a critical condition, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said.
Daesh had first claimed responsibility for the attack on Friday night, repeating its claim again on Saturday.
Some witnesses filmed the gunmen from the upper floors as they walked through the stalls shooting people, sharing the footage on social media.
Then “the terrorists used a flammable liquid to set fire to the concert hall’s premises, where spectators were located, including wounded,” the Investigative Committee said.
Investigators said people died both from gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation after a fire engulfed the 6,000-seater venue.
Investigators said a man who jumped on one of the gunmen as he was shooting at the concert-goers, “immobilizing” him and thus “saving the lives of people around him” would receive an award.
Putin did not address Daesh’s claim of responsibility in his first public remarks Saturday, which came more than 18 hours after the start of the attack.

‘Common terrorist enemy’
But in Washington, a statement from the White House condemning the attack described the Daesh group as a “common terrorist enemy that must be defeated everywhere.”
The head of the state-run RT media outlet, Margarita Simonyan, posted two videos of interrogations of two handcuffed suspects. They both admitted to the attack but did not say who had organized it.
The interior ministry said all four of the suspected gunmen were foreign nationals.
Russian Telegram channels — including those with links to the security services — said they were from Tajikistan, a country that borders Afghanistan and where the jihadist group is active.
Tajikistan’s foreign ministry told Russia’s TASS news agency it was in close contact with Moscow over the matter.
In Moscow, residents stood in long lines in the rain to donate blood for those hospitalized, and mourners came to lay flowers outside the concert hall.
Memorial posters featuring a single candle replaced some advertising billboards in the capital and major events were canceled across the country.
Statements of condemnation from world leaders continued to roll in.
Just three days earlier, Putin had publicly dismissed a US warning of an “imminent” attack in Moscow as propaganda designed to scare Russian citizens.
The US embassy in Russia had warned on March 7 that “extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts,” advising caution over the following 48 hours.
Washington said after the attack it had also shared details directly with Moscow.
But speaking to FSB chiefs last Tuesday, Putin had called it a “provocative” statement and “outright blackmail... to intimidate and destabilize our society.”


Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike

Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike
Updated 28 May 2024
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Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike

Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah strike
  • Biden has faced increasing pressure from within his own party to scale back support for Israel

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration told Israel to take every precaution to protect civilians after a military strike in Rafah killed dozens of Palestinians, as it faced calls from some fellow Democrats to halt military shipments to Israel.
“Israel has a right to go after Hamas, and we understand this strike killed two senior Hamas terrorists who are responsible for attacks against Israeli civilians,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. “But as we’ve been clear, Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians.
Biden has faced increasing pressure from within his own party to scale back support for Israel, even before the airstrike on Sunday night that set tents and rickety metal shelters ablaze in a Rafah camp, killing 45 people.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent Democratic lawmaker in the House of Representatives, on Monday called the strike “an indefensible atrocity,” adding in a social media post that “it is long past time for the President to live up to his word and suspend military aid.”
“Horrific and gut wrenching images coming out of Rafah last night,” Representative Ayanna Pressley said in a social media post. “How much longer will the US stand by while the Israeli military slaughters and mutilates Palestinian babies?“
Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American serving in Congress, called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “genocidal maniac.”
Netanyahu on Monday said the strike was not intended to cause civilian casualties but went “tragically wrong.”
The NSC spokesperson said the US government was “actively engaging” with the Israeli military and others on the ground to assess what happened.
Almost half of Democratic voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, according to a recent poll from Reuters/Ipsos.
Weeks of campus protests about the war have added to the pressure, and wider demands for a permanent ceasefire have put Biden’s reelection campaign on the defensive.


Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah
Updated 28 May 2024
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Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

OTTAWA: Canada said on Monday it will issue visas to 5,000 Gazans, more than it originally pledged, and said it was “horrified” by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah that triggered a blaze causing 45 deaths.

The visas for Canadians’ relatives living in the enclave represent a five-fold increase from the 1,000 temporary resident visas allotted under a special program that Canada announced in December.

“While movement out of Gaza is not currently possible, the situation may change at any time. With this cap increase, we will be ready to help more people as the situation evolves,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller said.

A spokesperson for Miller said 448 Gazans had been issued a temporary visa, including 254 under a policy not related to the special visa program, and 41 have arrived in Canada so far.

An Israeli airstrike late on Sunday night triggered a fire in a tent camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, prompting an outcry from global leaders including from Canada.

“We are horrified by strikes that killed Palestinian civilians in Rafah,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement, adding that Canada does not support an Israeli military operation in Rafah.

“This level of human suffering must come to an end. We demand an immediate ceasefire,” Joly said, echoing global leaders who urged the implementation of a World Court order to halt Israel’s assault.

Canada has repeatedly supported calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, including at the United Nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that the strike in Rafah had not been intended to cause civilian casualties and that something had gone “tragically wrong.” Israel’s military, which is trying to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, said it was investigating.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to the local health ministry, and an estimated 1.7 million people, more than 75 percent of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, according to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

Israel launched its military campaign after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.


Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv
Updated 27 May 2024
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Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

MADRID: Spain on Monday pledged one billion euros in military aid to Ukraine as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a security deal in Madrid.

The deal “includes a commitment for one billion euros in military aid for 2024,” Sanchez told a joint news conference

“It will allow Ukraine to boost its capabilities including its essential air defense systems to protect its civilians, cities and infrastructure which are still suffering indiscriminate attacks as seen this weekend in Kharkiv,” he said, referring to a Russian strike on the northeastern city that killed at least 16 people.

Zelensky’s visit comes as Ukraine has been battling a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region which began on May 10 in Moscow’s biggest territorial advance in 18 months.

With the Russian assault now in its third year, Ukraine has been pleading for more weapons for its outgunned and outnumbered troops, notably seeking help to address its lack of air defense systems.

According to El Pais newspaper, the deal would include new Patriot missiles and Leopard tanks. Zelensky has already signed bilateral security agreements with several countries including France, Germany and the UK.

Sanchez said the security agreement would cover a range of a different issues.

“The agreement is based on a comprehensive overview of security and covers various areas such as military, humanitarian and financial support, as well as collaboration between Spanish and Ukrainian defense industries, as well as help with reconstruction and de-mining among other things,” he said.


Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’

Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’
Updated 27 May 2024
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Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’

Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’
  • Defense Minister Guido Crosett said ‘We are watching the situation with despair’

ROME: Italy said on Monday Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza were no longer justifiable in one of the strongest criticisms Rome has made so far against Israel’s campaign.

“There is an increasingly difficult situation, in which the Palestinian people are being squeezed without regard for the rights of innocent men, women and children who have nothing to do with Hamas and this can no longer be justified,” Defense Minister Guido Crosetto told SkyTG24 TV.

“We are watching the situation with despair.”

Crosetto said Italy agreed in principle with the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas militants on southern Israeli communities, but he added that a difference had to be made between the militant group and the Palestinian people.

On Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani met Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa in Rome, reiterating their support for a ceasefire and urging Hamas to release Israeli hostages.

Italy has repeatedly said that Israel had a right to defend itself from Hamas. Last week, Rome said an International Criminal Court prosecutor’s decision to seek an arrest warrant for Israeli leaders was “unacceptable.” 


British foreign ministry official says some Muslims in UK want to ‘challenge values’ of the country

British foreign ministry official says some Muslims in UK want to ‘challenge values’ of the country
Updated 27 May 2024
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British foreign ministry official says some Muslims in UK want to ‘challenge values’ of the country

British foreign ministry official says some Muslims in UK want to ‘challenge values’ of the country
  • Was responding to comments made by right-wing politician Nigel Farage, the honorary president of Reform UK

LONDON: A British foreign office minister said on Monday some Muslims in the UK wanted to “challenge the values” of the country.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s was speaking after right-wing politician Nigel Farage, the honorary president of Reform UK, told Sky News on Sunday there was a growing proportion of British Muslims who “loathed” the UK’s values, citing a study that claimed 46 percent supported Hamas.

Trevelyan told LBC Radio on Monday that she believed a small minority of British Muslims matched the description.

“The vast proportion of British Muslims are wonderful, peace-loving, community-minded people, certainly in the northeast where I’m based, we have fantastic communities and they are a really important part of our social fabric,” she said.

“There are a very small proportion for whom they want to challenge those values that we hold dear in the UK, which are British values, and there we need to continue to work in community to bring those people to this.

“The UK has incredible values of freedom of speech, freedom of choice … these are incredibly important values, but they have to be nurtured and looked after, and where there are those who would threaten them we need to make sure that we deal with that,” she said.

Bridget Phillipson of the Labour Party, the shadow education secretary, slammed Farage’s comments as “incendiary rhetoric,” and told the same LBC show: “What we need in this election is a sense of how we bring our country together, how we focus on a more positive and hopeful mission for what our country can be — not this kind of division.”