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Graphic footage shows suspect in Moscow concert attack ‘being force-fed own ear’

Footage that appears to show the torture of suspects in the Moscow concert hall attack during which more than 130 people were killed are circulating in Russia, although the Kremlin is refusing to answer questions about the videos. A total of 97 people remain in hospital, officials said.

One of the films appears to show security forces cutting off the ear of one of the suspects and trying to feed it to him, while another shows a man apparently being subject to electric shocks to his groin. A third shows security forces beating a man with their rifle butts and kicking him as he lies in the snow. Isis has claimed the attack and itself released graphic video of the attackers firing on the crowd inside the concert hall.

Four men appeared in court over the weekend and were charged in relation to the attack. They appeared to have been beaten, with one of the suspects having heavy bandaging on his right ear. One also had to be brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair.

The four suspects were named by Russian authorities as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, 32, Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda, 30, Shamsidin Fariduni, 25, and Muhammadsobir Fayzov, 19.

The men the court identified during the court proceeding as Mr Mirzoyev and Mr Rachabalizoda both had black eyes. Mr Rachabalizoda appeared with the bandage on his right ear. The face of the man identified as Mr Fariduni was badly swollen.

Mr Fariduni said in an interrogation video published on social media that he had arrived from Turkey on 4 March 4. He was trembling while being questioned by the side of a road, with his hands tied behind his back. He said that he had “shot people” in Crocus City Hall “for money”, having been offered 500,000 roubles ($5,400) by a person he did not identify.

The man named as Mr Fayzov appeared to lose consciousness as he was brought into court in a wheelchair. Photographs circulating online on Sunday appeared to show Mr Fayzov with one of his eyes missing.

The men were officially identified by as citizens of Tajikistan, Russia’s Tass state news agency said. A court statement on the Telegram messaging service said Mr Mirzoyev had “admitted his guilt in full”, while Mr Rachabalizoda also “admitted guilt”. All four were remanded in pre-trial custody until May.

The men were caught in the southern Bryansk region, hundreds of miles from Moscow, when they fled a vehicle and tried to reach a nearby forest.

When asked about the videos showing alleged torture of the suspects, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, refused to comment.

Suspect Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda in court

(AP)

Russian authorities say at least 137 people were killed in the Moscow attack and close to another 200 were injured. It constitutes the deadliest attack claimed by Isis in Europe – and the worst such attack in Russia for two decades.

On Monday, Emmanuel Macron said that the Isis branch behind the attack, known as Khorasan Province (Isis-K) had previously attempted attacks on France, as he agreed with the US assessment that Isis-K were behind the act of terror.

“The information available to us … as well as to our main partners, indicates indeed that it was an entity of the Islamic State [Isis] which instigated this attack,” Mr Macron said during a visit to French Guiana, agreeing with the US intelligence assessment that it was a regional branch of Isis, known as Khorasan Province (Isis-K) behind the attack. “This specific group…had over the past months attempted attacks on our soil,” he said.

French prime minister Gabriel Attal later said these foiled attacks included a plot on the city of Strasbourg, in eastern France. “The claim of responsibility for the [Moscow] attack by a branch of Islamic State [Isis] that planned attacks in European countries including France prompted us to increase the Vigipirate [security threat assessment] to its highest level,” Mr Attal said, speaking from a Paris train station, referencing the rising of the terror threat level on Sunday night. “We will deploy exceptional means everywhere on [French] territory,” he added.

On Monday, Italy’s interior ministry said it was also stepping up police activity. “In anticipation of the upcoming Easter holidays, an intensification of surveillance and control activities by the police has been agreed,” a statement said, adding that special attention would be given to “all sensitive targets”.

Russian MPs have called on those found guilty of the attack to face capital punishment. Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Vladimir Putin who served a term as Russia’s president and who has become increasingly strident since Russia sent its troops into Ukraine two years ago, discussed the detained suspects on his Telegram channel on Monday.

A soldier patrols at the Eiffel Tower on Monday, as France steps up its terror threat level

(AP)

“Do they have to be killed?” he asked. “They have to be. And will be.”

Russia’s prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, said that “the perpetrators will be punished” and that “they do not deserve mercy”.

Russia has had a moratorium on capital punishment since the 1990s, but it remains on the statute book. No executions have been carried out since 1996, when President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree establishing the moratorium, which was explicitly confirmed by the Constitutional Court in 1999. Russia’s penal code currently allows for the death penalty for five offences: murder, genocide, and attempted murder of either a judge, police officer or state official.

“Now many people are asking questions about the death penalty. This topic, of course, will be deeply, professionally, meaningfully studied,” Vladimir Vasilyev, parliamentary leader of the United Russia faction in the lower house of parliament, was quoted by the state news agency Tass media as saying on Saturday.

However, Mr Peskov told reporters that the Kremlin is “not taking part in this discussion at the moment”.

Russian officials have so far not acknowledged the claim by Isis. Mr Putin has instead claimed that the attackers were trying to reach Ukraine, although he has not offered any evidence of this. Mr Putin said some people on “the Ukrainian side” had been prepared to spirit the gunmen across the border. Ukraine has denied any role in the attack. President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Mr Putin of seeking to divert blame for the attack by mentioning Ukraine, who are defending themselves against an invasion by Russian forces that Mr Putin launched in February 2022. Mr Peskov said in his news conference on Monday that it was inappropriate to comment on the Isis claim until an investigation had been completed. On Sunday, Mr Putin said 11 people have been detained in total.

The White House also dismissed the suggestion of a link to Ukraine. “There was no linkage to Ukraine. This is just more Kremlin propaganda,” said White House spokesperson John Kirby.

Mr Macron warned Russia against trying to exploit the attack by blaming Ukraine. “I think that it would be both cynical and counterproductive for Russia itself and the security of its citizens to use this context to try and turn it against Ukraine,” he said, adding that France had offered help to find the culprits.

“We have offered to increase cooperation with the Russian [intelligence] services and our partners in the region, so that the culprits can be found as quickly as possible and so that we continue to fight effectively against these groups which are targeting several countries,” Mr Macron said.

Mr Peskov said Russia’s security services had not accepted any help from the West. “No, our security services are working on their own, no assistance is currently on the table,” he said

According to counterterrorism researcher Lucas Webber, Isis has been “focused on outreach efforts to Central Asia since the mid-2010s, finding success in recruitment, fundraising, and violent incitement”. He added that Isis-K has been the terror group’s “most internationally-minded branch” and has created Uzbek, Tajik, and Russian-language media wings to build support. He added that there had been Isis-K linked plots foiled in Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Austria, and Sweden since last year.


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