Springfield News-Sun

Officials urge harsh punishment for concert attackers

- By Dasha Litvinova

Calls mounted in Russia on Monday to harshly punish those behind the concert hall attack that killed more than 130 people as authoritie­s combed the burned-out ruins of the entertainm­ent complex and an Orthodox priest blessed the site.

Four men, charged with carrying out a terrorist attack, appeared in court Sunday night and showed signs of being severely beaten. Civil liberties groups cited this as sign that Russia’s poor record on human rights under President Vladimir Putin was bound to worsen.

Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the investigat­ion is still ongoing but vowed that “the perpetrato­rs will be punished, they do not deserve mercy.”

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, urged authoritie­s to “kill them all.”

The attack Friday night on Crocus

City Hall on the western outskirts of Moscow left 137 people dead and over 180 injured, proving to be the deadliest in Russia in years. A total of 97 people remained hospitaliz­ed, officials said.

As they mowed down concertgoe­rs with gunfire, the attackers set fire to the vast concert hall, and the resulting blaze caused the roof to collapse.

The search operation will continue until at least Tuesday afternoon, officials said. A Russian Orthodox priest conducted a service at the site Monday, blessing a makeshift memorial with incense.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibi­lity for the attack, and U.S. intelligen­ce backed up their claims. French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking on a trip to French Guiana, said France has intelligen­ce pointing to “an IS entity” as responsibl­e for the Moscow attack.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry

Peskov refused to assign blame, urging reporters Monday to wait for the results of the investigat­ion in Russia. He also refused to comment on reports that the U.S. warned authoritie­s in Moscow on March 7 about a possible terrorist attack, saying any such intelligen­ce is confidenti­al.

The four suspects were identified in the Russian media as Tajik nationals. At least two of the suspects admitted culpabilit­y, court officials said, although their conditions raised questions about whether their statements were coerced.

The men were identified as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, 32; Saidakrami Rachabaliz­oda, 30; Shamsidin Fariduni, 25; and Mukhammads­obir Faizov, 19. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonme­nt.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said seven other suspects have been detained. Three of them appeared in court Monday, with no signs of injuries, and they were placed in pre-trial detention on terrorism charges. The fate of others remained unclear.

Russian media had reported the four were tortured during interrogat­ion. Mirzoyev, Rachabaliz­oda and Fariduni showed signs of heavy bruising, including swollen faces. Mirzoyev had a plastic bag still hanging over his neck; Rachabaliz­oda had a heavily bandaged ear. Russian media reported Saturday that one suspect had his ear cut off during interrogat­ion. The Associated Press couldn’t verify the report or videos purporting to show this.

Faizov, wearing a hospital gown, appeared in court in a wheelchair, accompanie­d by medical personnel, and sat with his eyes closed throughout. He appeared to have multiple cuts.

Peskov refused to comment on the suspects’ treatment.

Medvedev, Russia’s president in 2008-12, had especially harsh comments about them.

“They have been caught. Kudos to all who were chasing them. Should they be killed? They should. And it will happen,” he wrote on his Telegram page. “But it is more important to kill everyone involved. Everyone. Those who paid, those who sympathize­d, those who helped. Kill them all.”

 ?? ZEMLIANICH­ENKO / AP ALEXANDER ?? A suspect in the Crocus City Hall shooting on Friday sits in a courtroom in the Basmanny District Court, in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday.
ZEMLIANICH­ENKO / AP ALEXANDER A suspect in the Crocus City Hall shooting on Friday sits in a courtroom in the Basmanny District Court, in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday.

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