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Moscow concert hall attack: What do we know so far?




At least 133 people have been killed and more than 100 others injured after gunmen opened fire and set off explosives at a concert hall on the western edge of Moscow.

Here’s what we know so far:

Crocus City Hall

The Russian capital is a sprawling city that is home to some 12 million people.

The Crocus City Hall, which includes a shopping centre and conference venue, lies in suburban Krasnogorsk, about 20km (12 miles) west of the Kremlin and alongside the Moscow ring road.

Opened in 2009, the concert hall is a popular entertainment venue with a capacity for 6,200 people.

Former United States President Donald Trump once held a Miss Universe contest there.

The attack

The attack began on Friday evening just as people were taking their seats for a sold-out show by Picnic, a popular rock band from the Soviet era.

As many as five men in combat fatigues entered the concert hall and opened fire on those inside.

Dave Primov, who was in the hall during the attack, described chaotic scenes.

“There were volleys of gunfire,” Primov told The Associated Press news agency. “We all got up and tried to move toward the aisles. People began to panic, started to run and collided with each other. Some fell down and others trampled on them.”

People outside the Crocus Concert Hall after the attack. Flames are rising from the top of the building. Emergency vehicles are in the car park below.
The fire at the venue spread to some 12,900 square metres [139,000sq ft] according to officials, but was mostly contained by early Saturday [Dmitry Serebryakov/AP Photo]

Russian investigators said at least 133 people had been killed, while more than 100 others were injured in one of the worst attacks to hit the country in decades.

The attackers also set off explosives that ignited a huge blaze that at one point covered as much as 12,900 square metres (139,000sq ft), according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Graphic videos posted on social media showed the gunmen firing repeatedly as they entered the building, and shooting people at point-blank range.

Another video showed a man in the auditorium saying the attackers had set it on fire.

Helicopters were brought in to douse the flames from the air, as firefighters battled the blaze from the ground. The fire was eventually brought under control early on Saturday.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said firefighters helped about 100 people escape through the building’s basement, while rescue operations were also launched for people trapped on the roof.

TASS news agency said the band members of Picnic were not harmed and were evacuated safely.

Hunt for the attackers

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the top state criminal investigation agency, opened a “terrorist” investigation into the attack and the national guard, Rosgvardia, was among units deployed to search for the gunmen.

Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s security council and a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, has said the Moscow attack shows how serious the threat of terrorism is to Russia, TASS reported.

He added that those who carried out the attack would be held to account.

Russia’s FSB security service has told Putin that 11 people have been detained, including four people directly involved in the attack, Interfax cited the Kremlin as saying.

At least two suspects were arrested in the Bryansk region, some 340km (210 miles) southwest of Moscow, following a car chase, said politician Alexander Khinshtein, citing “preliminary information”. Other suspects fled into a nearby forest and are being pursued, he added.

The Kremlin did not immediately blame anyone for the attack, but some Russian politicians were quick to accuse Ukraine.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, denied Ukraine’s involvement.

“Ukraine has never resorted to the use of terrorist methods,” he posted on X. “Everything in this war will be decided only on the battlefield.”

Russian law enforcement outside the Crocus City Hall. They have dogs with them.
Russian law enforcement officers patrol a carpark near the Crocus City Hall concert venue with their dogs following the attack [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

ISIL claims responsibility

Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), an Afghan affiliate of ISIL (ISIS), claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted by its Amaq news agency.

It said its fighters had attacked on the outskirts of Moscow, “killing and wounding hundreds and causing great destruction to the place before they withdrew to their bases safely” and then escaped. The news agency gave no further details.

Russia has reported several incidents involving ISIL this month, with the FSB intelligence agency saying on March 7 it foiled an attack by ISKP on a Moscow synagogue.

The US said it had also warned of the heightened threat posed by “extremists” with imminent plans for an attack on “large gatherings” in Moscow and had shared that finding with the Russians. On Friday night, a US official said Washington had intelligence confirming ISIL’s claim of responsibility for the Crocus City Hall attack.

Experts said the group had opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years.

“ISIS-K [ISKP] has been fixated on Russia for the past two years, frequently criticising Putin in its propaganda,” said Colin Clarke of the Soufan Center, a Washington-based research group.

Michael Kugelman of the Washington, DC-based Wilson Center said ISKP “sees Russia as being complicit in activities that regularly oppress Muslims”.

What has Putin said?

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that all those responsible for the Moscow attack would be identified and punished.

“All the perpetrators and organisers behind this crime will, inevitably, face a just punishment. Regardless of who they are, and who was directing them, we will identify and punish everyone who was behind this terrorist attack,” he said in an address to the nation.

Putin also claimed the attackers had tried to escape towards Ukraine. He said that preliminary information showed that some people in Ukraine were prepared to let them cross the border from Russia.

Sunday has been declared a national day of mourning, he added.

Earlier, Putin wished a speedy recovery to the wounded victims and conveyed his thanks to doctors who had treated the injured, Russia’s deputy prime minister Tatyana Golikova was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies after meeting with him.<

At least 60 people wounded in the attack are in a serious condition, the Russian Health Ministry said.

Dozens of people lined up outside the Gavrilov Blood Center in Moscow to donate blood needed to treat victims of the attack, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported. The facility is Russia’s largest blood transfusion centre.

What previous attacks have targeted Russia?

In October 2015, an ISIL-planted bomb exploded on a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai desert, killing all 224 people on board, most of them Russians returning from their holidays in Egypt.

The country was also shaken by a series of deadly attacks in the early 2000s.

In September 2004, about 30 Chechen fighters seized a school in Beslan in southern Russia taking hundreds of people hostage. The siege ended in a bloodbath two days later and more than 330 people, about half of them children, were killed.

In October 2002, Chechen fighters stormed a theatre in Moscow taking about 800 people hostage in the auditorium. Russian special forces launched a bid to rescue the captives two days later, by first subduing the attackers with a narcotic gas. Some 41 Chechens died, as well as 129 hostages, mostly from the effects of the gas.

How has the world reacted to the Moscow attack?

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping sent his “condolences” to Putin, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported. Xi “stressed that China opposes all form of terrorism, strongly condemns the terrorist attack and firmly supports the Russian government’s efforts to safeguard its national security and stability”.
  • White House spokesman John Kirby said: “The images are just horrible and just hard to watch, and our thoughts obviously are going to be with the victims of this terrible, terrible shooting attack.”
  • The European Union said it was “shocked and appalled” by the attack. “The EU condemns any attacks against civilians. Our thoughts are with all those Russian citizens affected,” said an EU spokesman.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on X: “We strongly condemn the heinous terrorist attack in Moscow. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. India stands in solidarity with the government and the people of the Russian Federation in this hour of grief.”
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said he “strongly condemns the terrorist attack claimed by the Islamic State”, in a statement released by the Elysee Palace. “France expresses its solidarity with the victims, their loved ones and all the Russian people,” it said.

Germany, Afghanistan, Norway, Cuba, Italy, Japan, Venezuela, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Malaysia are among others who have condemned the attack.

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North Korea conducts test on new ‘super-large warhead’: State media





Pyongyang says new warhead designed for cruise missiles, adding that a new anti-aircraft rocket was also tested.

North Korea has conducted a test on a “super-large warhead” designed for a strategic cruise missile, state media reports, adding that it also launched a new type of anti-aircraft missile.

“The DPRK Missile Administration has conducted a power test of a super-large warhead designed for ‘Hwasal-1 Ra-3’ strategic cruise missile”, KCNA news agency reported on Saturday, referring to North Korea by an abbreviation for its official name – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea also carried out a test launch on Friday afternoon of a “Pyoljji-1-2”, which state media said was a “new-type anti-aircraft missile”.

KCNA added that “a certain goal was attained” through the test without providing further details.

The weapons tests were part of the “regular activities of the administration and its affiliated defence science institutes”, KCNA reported, referencing the operation of “new-type weapon systems”.

The tests “had nothing to do with the surrounding situation”, KCNA added, but did not give any further information.

In early April, North Korea said it had tested a new medium-to-long-range solid-fuel hypersonic missile, with state media sharing a video of it being launched as leader Kim Jong Un looked on.

Cruise missiles are among a growing collection of North Korean weapons designed to overwhelm regional missile defences. They supplement the North’s vast arsenal of ballistic missiles, including intercontinental variants, which are said to be aimed at the continental United States.

Analysts say anti-aircraft missile technology is an area where North Korea could benefit from its deepening military cooperation with Russia, as the two countries align in the face of their separate, intensifying confrontations with the US.

The US and South Korea have accused the North of providing artillery shells and other equipment to Russia to help extend its warfighting ability in Ukraine.

Since its second nuclear test in 2009, Pyongyang has been under heavy international sanctions, but the development of its nuclear and weapons programmes has continued unabated.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Ecuador weighs security, international arbitration in latest referendum





Quito, Ecuador – He was elected president at a time of crisis, as Ecuador’s murder rate skyrocketed and gang violence seeped across the country.

Now, Ecuadorian leader Daniel Noboa is taking a plan of action to the voters, with an 11-part referendum on Sunday.

The referendum includes a wide range of proposals, from the militarisation of Ecuador’s police to tougher punishments for crimes like drug trafficking, murder and money laundering.

But Sunday’s vote is set to go beyond beefed-up security practices. One question, for example, aims to reform the judiciary system. Another considers whether arbitration should be the default approach to settling international financial disputes.

Noboa has been pushing for Ecuadorians to vote in favour of all 11 ballot measures, in an effort to streamline the economy and stamp out gang violence.

“Voting yes will strengthen our laws and leave no opportunities for those criminals who wish to joke with our justice [system] with the help of corrupt lawmen,” Noboa said in a public event on Monday.

But the broad nature of the proposals has prompted concern, with critics wondering what the consequences could be for human rights, the economy and efforts to stabilise Ecuador’s security situation.

Some have even questioned whether the referendum reflects a shift towards the “mano dura” or “iron fist” policies popular in countries like El Salvador, where human rights organisations have warned of false imprisonment and a lack of due process.

Daniel Noboa speaks into a microphone.
Daniel Noboa has made the national security referendum a goal of his presidency [Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo]

Limited opposition

Still, only one major political group in the country has consistently called for Ecuadorians to vote “no” on all 11 ballot measures: the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE).

The group has accused the government of exploiting the referendum to further Noboa’s political ambitions, as the country approaches its 2025 general election.

Noboa — a 36-year-old politician and heir to a banana industry fortune — was sworn in last November to serve an abbreviated 18-month term, after the departure of embattled President Guillermo Lasso. But he is widely expected to run for a full term in the next race.

In a virtual forum on April 11, CONAIE president Leonidas Iza called the referendum a chance for Noboa to rally support.

“The government needs to consolidate its strength to impose neoliberal policies,” Iza said.

Referendums, he added, are costly to organise, and he called for the policies to instead be considered in Ecuador’s National Assembly.

Another CONAIE leader, Agustin Cachipuendo, was later quoted in the newspaper El Universo as saying any repercussions from the vote would disproportionately fall on marginalised groups.

“This government does not know poverty [but] makes decisions that affect the poor,” he said.

Soldiers in fatigues and combat gear walk through fields in rural Ecuador.
Soldiers patrol during a presidential visit to dairy farms in Poalo, Ecuador, on March 21 [Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo]

Rallying public support

Nevertheless, the referendum enjoys relatively broad public support. According to the research institute Comunicaliza, 42.7 percent of voters plan to back Noboa’s proposals.

Still, another 27.5 percent said they have not made up their minds yet.

Maria, a 48-year-old resident of Guayaquil who asked to use a pseudonym for her safety, is among those supporting the president’s measures to tighten security in the country.

Her city has been at the forefront of the crisis. In January, for instance, a criminal group stormed a local TV station during a live broadcast and held employees at gunpoint, generating international outcry.

Maria explained she had been targeted by a criminal group herself: They blackmailed her by threatening her children. But she said she feels safer thanks to the state of emergency Noboa imposed in January, which allowed the military to be deployed to city streets.

“Policemen and soldiers have been patrolling the borough in these months, so we can finally sleep tight at night,” Maria told Al Jazeera.

She credits the soldiers with curbing the violence in her neighbourhood. The referendum could pave the way for the military to have a permanent role in policing, something Maria hopes will happen.

“If they will leave us, what happens then? This is what everyone is worried about,” she said.

A soldier stands in shadow in front of a row of orange-clad prisoners.
A soldier guards cell block 3 of the militarised Litoral prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on February 9 [Santiago Arcos/Reuters]

Searching for a permanent fix

Noboa’s government has argued that the referendum is a necessary step to curb the wave of violence that has rattled the country since 2018.

Declaring a state of emergency, officials argue, is only a temporary solution.

“The general purpose of the [referendum] is to establish some permanent mechanisms, breaking the cycle of enacting emergency decrees and then going back to business as usual,” said the government spokesperson Roberto Izurieta in an interview with local television station Teleamazonas.

The state of emergency granted the government additional powers, allowing officials to impose a curfew and take stronger action against gangs.

Under the state of emergency, for instance, Noboa’s government labelled 22 criminal groups as “terrorist” organisations, clearing the way for the police and military to focus extra resources towards combatting them.

Security forces also seized 77 tonnes of drugs and detained 18,736 people, 300 of whom have since been accused of terrorism. According to the authorities, violent deaths have reduced by 26 percent since Noboa took office.

But in early April, the state of emergency came to an end. Ferdinando Carrion, a security expert, believes some of the reforms in the referendum could help Noboa to continue his campaign against the violence, but more structural reforms are needed.

“They achieved good results in the first two months,” Carrion said of the government’s state of emergency. “But it looks like the effect has been exhausted.”

He pointed to Ecuador’s prison system as a particular area of vulnerability. Investigations have shown that criminal organisations use prisons as spaces through which they can run their operations.

But under the state of emergency, the military was allowed to intervene. Carrion said that produced positive results.

“They intervened in 18 prisons out of 36, managing to sever [the gang leaders’] relations with the outside,” Carrion explained.

“But the minute the army leaves the prisons and gives them back to the national service SNAI, they will return to business as usual, since it has shown problems of efficiency, corruption and collusion.”

Carrion would like to see even greater reforms to government agencies like SNAI, beyond what is on the ballot on Sunday.

“Strengthening our institutions is paramount,” he told Al Jazeera, calling for the creation of a new body to replace SNAI.

A tank sits in front of a Guayaquil prison
The Ecuadorian government has deployed the military to control prisons like the one in Guayaquil [Santiago Arcos/Reuters]

Elections in the crosshairs

Still, some analysts question the efficacy of the referendum, even if it is successful.

Carla Alvarez, a professor studying security at the National Institute for Higher Studies, believes that the referendum will fall short of addressing the country’s gang crisis.

“No query made for public consultation will damage the structure of criminal organisations,” she told Al Jazeera.

She echoed concerns that the referendum has done more to bolster Noboa’s public image than to address the roots of crime in Ecuador.

Many experts trace the rise in the violence to Ecuador’s strategic location between the two largest cocaine producers in the world, Colombia and Peru.

They also point out that Ecuador’s economy was significantly weakened during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving unemployed youth vulnerable to gang recruitment.

But Alvarez said Noboa’s emphasis on holding the referendum is also motivated by his future ambitions. “This vote is happening in the middle of an electoral race. And this allows the president to revive his image on social media and achieve more visibility.”

The security situation has a direct impact on the integrity of Ecuador’s democracy. In the lead-up to the snap election last August, a presidential candidate running on an anticorruption platform was gunned down outside of a rally.

And in recent months, politicians have continued to be targets of the spike in violence.

Five mayors have been shot dead since the year began, the most recent murder unfolding on Friday, just days before Sunday’s vote.

The slain mayor, Jorge Maldonado of Portovelo, was the third to be killed in less than a month. His death followed that of Mayor Brigitte Garcia of San Vicente and Mayor Jose Sanchez of Camilo Ponce Enriquez.

Suspects kneel in front of armed police officers. In front of them is a blue table with guns arrayed as evidence.
Suspects and weapons are displayed for reporters at a police station in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on January 11, shortly after a TV station was stormed during a live broadcast [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

Chance of a split vote

Critics like Alvarez underscore that referendums are no silver bullet to the security crisis.

Rather, they are a relatively common political tool. Since 2006, Ecuadorians have been asked to express their will through referendums nine times, on issues ranging from oil exploration to presidential term limits.

Paulina Recalde, director of pollster Perfiles de Opinion, also questions whether Sunday’s referendum will create the groundswell of support Noboa seeks.

While Noboa is angling for approval on all 11 items, Recalde’s research suggests that voters will not unanimously back all the proposals.

“Since the very beginning, we never found an overall majority. People won’t vote the same in all the 11 queries,” she said.

Recalde also said there was confusion over the vote. According to her research, 68 percent of respondents knew little or nothing about the referendum a month ago.

She added that the power outages Ecuador is currently experiencing — as well as a controversial police raid on Mexico’s embassy in Quito — could dent Noboa’s popularity, regardless of the vote’s outcome.

“If people vote yes to expand the role of the military, does it mean that they are providing strong support for the president? I would say no,” she said.

An armed soldier in a helmet stands guard on a Quito city street.
A member of Ecuador’s security forces stands guard outside the Ministry of Energy and Mines in Quito, Ecuador, on April 16 [Karen Toro/Reuters]

Arbitration on the ballot

One of the most controversial ballot measures in Sunday’s referendum asks Ecuadorians to implement a system of “international arbitration” to resolve conflicts between the state and private foreign investors.

In international arbitration, a third neutral party is used to reach a binding decision that settles any claims.

Supporters of the measure feel arbitration could safeguard foreign investment in Ecuador, thereby boosting the country’s economy.

“In a dollarised economy like Ecuador, we need an increase in strong direct foreign investments aligned with our public policies,” said Eric Vinueza, investment counsellor for the Corporation for the Promotion of Exports and Investments (Corpei) who supports the measure.

But activists have criticised this proposal as a tool to discourage the government from enacting environmental reforms that might disadvantage foreign mining interests and other overseas companies.

With arbitration, foreign investors could file complaints and negotiate settlements behind closed doors, leaving the public no recourse to appeal.

“These are private and unilateral judicial spaces which allow transnational companies to sue the states, where the states are only able to defend themselves,” said Ivonne Ramos, a mining expert at the NGO Accion Ecologica.

In the 2008 constitution, Ecuador prohibited any international agreement that would limit its national sovereignty, including through international arbitration.

Sunday’s referendum would undo that protection. Ramos added that international arbitration could come with steep expenses for taxpayers.

Ecuador already owes $2.9 trillion to foreign companies. It is currently involved in 29 different lawsuits before international tribunals, with half of the complaints related to mining and fossil fuels.

“Three of the eight pending procedures could cost more than another $10 trillion, which is our national budget for education and health for 2024,” Ramos said.

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What’s the solution to the rising tensions between Israel and Iran?





The United States says it was warned in advance of the Israeli drone strike on Iran.

Iran has shot down Israeli drones in the latest confrontation on Friday.

There have been global calls for restraint – with both East and West fearful of what further conflict could mean for the region and the world.

So, what is the thinking in Iran and Israel? And what is next?

Presenter: Elizabeth Puranam


Mohammad Marandi – Dean of the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran

Gideon Levy – Columnist for the Haaretz Newspaper

Roxane Farmanfarmaian – Professor of Modern Middle East Politics at the University of Cambridge

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