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28 Mar, 2024 07:20

Germany had no prior knowledge of Moscow terror attack – Scholz

US intelligence agencies, however, probably had clues ahead of the shooting at Crocus City Hall, the chancellor has claimed
Germany had no prior knowledge of Moscow terror attack – Scholz

Germany had no prior information on preparations for the terrorist attack that claimed more than 140 lives at a concert venue just outside Moscow last week, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

On Friday, a group of gunmen armed with automatic rifles stormed the Crocus City Hall ahead of a rock concert, indiscriminately shooting civilians and setting the venue on fire. Several suspects, including four directly involved in the assault, were later detained by the Russian security services. 

The attack is so far confirmed to have claimed 143 lives and injured nearly 200 people, making it the deadliest in Russia since the early 2000s. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the alleged culprits as “radical Islamists,” saying they were caught fleeing towards Ukraine, where a window to cross the border was being arranged for them.

In an interview with the Markische Allgemeine newspaper on Thursday, Scholz denied having any prior knowledge about plans for the attack.   

He suggested, however, that “US [security] services probably had clues,” adding that Washington’s policy is to warn other countries of impending terrorist attacks whenever it receives information.

“They even issued a public warning. It is all the more regrettable that this terrible terrorist attack still took place,” the chancellor added.

Scholz was apparently referring to a security alert issued by the US Embassy in Moscow on March 7, warning that it was “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts,” and that this could occur within the next 48 hours. The White House also said that it had shared information about a potential attack with Russian authorities.

The head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, has confirmed that the US warned Moscow of a potential terrorist attack, but noted that the information was “general” in nature. Russian authorities “had taken appropriate measures,” he added, noting that they had targeted a group of individuals and that “[the] information did not check out at the time.”

Bortnikov has also suggested that along with Ukraine, the US and the UK may have played a role in the Crocus shooting. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has voiced suspicion about Washington’s categorical denial of any involvement by Kiev in the attack, as well as the US willingness to insist on the sole narrative that the shooting was carried out by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists.