Russian investigators receive more than 100 missing person reports after Moscow concert hall attack

By Christian Edwards, Darya Tarasova, Amy Cassidy and Zarah Ullah, CNN

CNN  —  The final death toll from the Moscow concert hall attack last week could be higher than the 143 confirmed dead, as Russian investigators said they have received more than 100 reports of missing people.

Russia’s Investigative Committee on Wednesday published a list of names identifying the 143 people confirmed dead so far.

Investigators had said earlier that they had also received 143 reports of missing people since Friday. It is not clear how many of the people reported missing are accounted for in the confirmed death toll. CNN has asked the Investigative Committee for clarification.

Russia was rocked last week by the deadliest terror attack on its soil in two decades, when gunmen stormed Crocus City Hall on the outskirts of Moscow, shooting civilians at point blank with assault weapons before setting the building on fire, causing the roof to collapse while concert-goers were still inside.

Thousands of people had traveled to the venue to watch the Soviet-era rock group Picnic. Russian social media channels have since been filled with appeals from friends and relatives to help find the victims still missing.

“Friends are looking for relatives, but still cannot find them. They are looking for their mother and brother. Please help!” read one message on the “Crocus Help Center” Telegram channel.

Many of the victims are thought to have been killed by inhaling smoke from the fire. While the roof was still burning, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and shared a video by the men as they stormed the building, where thousands of Russians had arrived to watch the rock group.

CNN has geolocated the 90-second video to the concert hall, where bodies and blood can be seen as fire rages above. The video shows one of the attackers slitting the throat of a man, and ends with the four gunmen walking away from the building with smoke billowing in the distance.

Mourners lay flowers in Moscow on Saturday for the victims of the Crocus City Hall attack.

Despite ISIS sharing video evidence, Russian President Vladimir Putin has baselessly claimed that Ukraine was in some way responsible for the attack.

In his first national address after the attack – 19 hours after it began – Putin on Saturday claimed, without evidence, that a “window” had been prepared for the attackers to escape to Ukraine. Senior Kremlin figures, including the head of Russia’s security services, the FSB, have doubled down on the accusation.

Ukraine has vehemently denied the “absurd” claims. President Volodymyr Zelensky accused “miserable Putin” of waiting a whole day to address the public only to “try to turn such a situation to his personal advantage again.”

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, one of Putin’s most loyal allies, contradicted Putin’s claim that the attackers had bolted for Ukraine. He said the gunmen tried initially to flee to Belarus, and only headed for Ukraine after realizing that Belarus had tightened its security – which Lukashenko said was done at the Kremlin’s request.

In trying to promote Belarus’ standing as a reliable partner of Russia, Lukashenko may have inadvertently weakened Putin’s allegations.

Russia has so far arrested 11 men in connection with the attack. Four of the suspects – all citizens of the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan – appeared battered and bruised in a Moscow court on Sunday, with one in a wheelchair appearing unresponsive. They were charged with terrorism and face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Videos shared widely on Russian social media appeared to show some of the men being violently interrogated. One video appeared to show the use of electrocution. Another showed a suspect having his ear cut off and stuffed in his mouth.

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