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8 Apr, 2024 00:46

Moscow terror attack suspects confess plan to escape to Ukraine

The men believed to be behind last month’s concert hall massacre said they were promised money in Kiev
Moscow terror attack suspects confess plan to escape to Ukraine

Two escape routes were prepared in Ukraine for alleged terrorists arrested for attacking a packed concert hall outside Moscow last month, according to confessions released by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on Sunday. The agency showed snippets from interrogation videos in which the suspects confessed that they had been promised money in Kiev.

Four Tajik nationals are accused of opening fire inside the Crocus City Hall music venue and then setting the building on fire, on March 22nd.

A total of 145 people were killed and more than 500 injured in the attack.

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

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

In interrogation videos aired on Russian TV at the weekend, the suspects said they were following instructions from a handler they knew as ‘Sayfullo’. Investigators are currently working to determine his identity. 

The handler allegedly told the men to escape to Ukraine, where they expected to receive 1 million rubles each ($11,000), they added.

“Sayfullo told us that guys would wait for us at the Ukrainian border and that they would help us to cross the border and arrive in Kiev," Muhammadsobir Fayzov told his interrogator.

According to investigators, the suspects took the M3 highway that leads to the border with Ukraine, but were eventually intercepted about 140km (87 miles) from Ukraine’s Sumy Region.

Suspect Shamsidin Fariduni said they had been told to “abandon the car near the border” and then call their handler for further instructions on how to travel into Ukraine.

Russian officials previously stated that a “window to cross the border had been arranged on the Ukrainian side.The FSB claimed on Sunday that the Ukrainians had been conducting “demining activities” near the villages of Chuykovka and Sopych, pointing to two possible escape routes. According to investigators, the suspects were expected to destroy their vehicle and cross the border on foot, using woodlands as cover. 

Russia’s Investigative Committee said earlier this week that pro-Ukrainian images had been discovered on a phone belonging to one of the suspects.

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