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5 Apr, 2024 05:26

Pro-Ukraine images found on cellphones of Moscow terror attacks suspects – investigators

New evidence suggests a possible link between the conflict and the Crocus City Hall massacre, officials have said
Pro-Ukraine images found on cellphones of Moscow terror attacks suspects – investigators

Images extracted from the cell phones of the terrorists who killed more than 140 people at a concert hall outside Moscow point to a possible link to the ongoing Ukraine conflict, investigators said on Friday.

On March 22, four Tajik nationals opened fire inside the packed Crocus City Hall music venue and then set the building on fire. A total of 145 people were killed and more than 500 were injured in the attack.

The suspected assailants were detained the next day while trying to flee to Ukraine by car, according to the authorities. More suspects were arrested in the following days, most of them of Tajik origin. 

The jihadist group Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) has claimed responsibility for the attack. The head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, however, suggested that the US, UK, and Ukraine may also be linked to the attack, possibly using Islamists as proxies. Ukraine and its Western backers have denied any involvement.

In an update on the case, Russia’s Investigative Committee (IC) said that images related to the Ukraine conflict were found on the cell phone of one of the terrorists. They include photos of Ukrainian soldiers and a photo of a man wrapped in the Ukrainian flag standing in front of a destroyed building. An image of a soldier standing on a tank and holding the Ukrainian flag contains the caption “The Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” 

Pro-Ukraine images found on cellphones of Moscow terror attacks suspects – investigators

“This data may suggest a connection between the terrorist attack and the [Ukraine] special military operation,” IC spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said. She added that investigators are checking whether “Ukrainian security services and international Islamist terrorist groups” were involved in the planning and funding of the concert hall massacre.  

Pro-Ukraine images found on cellphones of Moscow terror attacks suspects – investigators

Petrenko added that, on the morning of February 24, 2024, one of the suspects sent “his handler” photos of the entrances to the Crocus City Hall and of nearby roads. She noted that the date coincides with the start of Russia’s operation in Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022. 

The IC previously said that it had found evidence of suspects receiving money and cryptocurrency from Ukraine.

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