Russia mourns victims of Moscow concert hall attack as death toll rises to 137

Flags in Russia were flown at half-mast for a day of mourning after dozens of people were gunned down with automatic weapons at a rock concert outside Moscow in the worst attack in Russia in two decades.

President Vladimir Putin declared Sunday a national day of mourning and pledged to track down and punish those behind any attacks. The attack killed at least 137 people, including three children, and injured more than 150 people.

“I express my deep and sincere condolences to all those who have lost loved ones,” Putin said in an address to the nation on Saturday, his first public comments on the attack. “The whole country and the whole people grieve for you.”

The Islamic State (ISIS) militant group claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, but Putin did not publicly mention the group’s relationship with the attackers, who he said had been trying to flee to Ukraine. He claimed that some on the “Ukrainian side” were ready to smuggle them across the border.

Ukraine has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack, which Putin also blamed on “international terrorism.”

People laid flowers at the Crocus Town Hall, a 6,200-seat concert hall outside Moscow on Sunday, just before Soviet-era rock band Picnic were set to perform their hit song “Afraid of Nothing” on Friday. Armed men broke into the concert hall.

The men fired rapidly with automatic weapons at panicked civilians, who fell screaming in a hail of bullets.

It was the worst attack in Russia since the Beslan school siege in 2004, when attackers took more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children, hostage.

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Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyov said on Sunday that the rescue operation had been completed and that the search was still ongoing.

“The identification of relatives is in progress. In the hospital, doctors are fighting for the lives of 107 people.”

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By Ali Raza

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