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Russian authorities detain multiple gunmen in Moscow attack

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

The manhunt is over, according to Russian authorities. They say that they've arrested four gunmen who opened fire in a crowded concert hall just outside Moscow last night. At least 133 people were killed. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack on social media, yet Russian authorities seem more focused on linking the attack to Ukraine, even though Ukraine has forcefully denied any involvement. A warning that this report has disturbing sounds of gunfire and panic. From Moscow, here is NPR's Charles Maynes.

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: It was supposed to be a fun night full of music and memories at one of Moscow's best arenas, with the veteran rock band Picnic playing their greatest hits. Instead, minutes before the show began, four gunmen, perhaps more, entered the Crocus City Hall arena armed with Kalashnikovs and explosives to foment horror.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

MAYNES: Witness video shows the gunmen firing on civilians and security guards from close range in the venue's entrance before heading into the main concert hall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: A fire then broke out after the attackers detonated an explosive, engulfing the venue in smoke and flames that quickly spread throughout the premises, sending people scurrying - among them, Alexei (ph), who, like almost everyone I spoke to, wouldn't give his full name because of the security forces present. He's a stagehand who was in his office on the third floor.

ALEXEI: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: The smoke kept coming and coming, eventually forcing him to flee, he says. It was only later, outside talking with others, that he realized the scale of the carnage.

ALEXEI: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: I'm still in a dream trying to understand what happened, he tells me as we stare at the facade of the concert hall, now gutted by fire.

YOSEF: You know, we worked with security, with all the people who run concerts. And a lot of them, of course, got killed yesterday because...

MAYNES: Yosef (ph), a German sound engineer who's worked in Moscow for two decades, helped design Crocus City. When I met him, he was upset about the loss of colleagues and friends and that a space he'd built for music, for bringing people together, had instead become a tomb.

YOSEF: You can imagine any terrorist. You can imagine anything. But to come through the main entrance, kill the glass and kill the people behind - hey. No words, no words.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation, calling the tragedy a barbaric terrorist act. Yet the Russian leader made no mention of the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility. Nor did he acknowledge earlier warnings from the U.S. delivered two weeks ago that an attack on a public space in Moscow was imminent. Instead, the Russian leader focused on a possible Ukrainian connection.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PUTIN: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: All those who shot and killed civilians were detained on their way to the Ukrainian border, said Putin, adding the latest information suggested Ukrainians had arranged to smuggle them across to safety.

NINA TURUSCHENKA: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: Nina Turuschenka (ph), a supporter of the president, who I met bringing flowers to a makeshift memorial outside the scene of the tragedy, said she, for one, had no doubts over who was responsible.

TURUSCHENKA: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: Two hundred percent, it's America and Ukraine, she tells me. It's their revenge for Putin's victory in the recent elections. What have we Russians done that's so bad?

TURUSCHENKA: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: For now, the focus is on the victims. President Putin has called for a day of mourning on Wednesday, ordered security tightened throughout the country.

TURUSCHENKA: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: Yet Alyona (ph), a single mother who'd come to pay her respects to those who lost their lives, said the attack showed the Kremlin had too long spent its resources targeting opposition figures and other imaginary enemies at home and.

ALYONA: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: The security forces focus on the LGBT community or cracking down on Alexei Navalny and his followers, even though they don't do any harm to the country, she says - all the while, she adds, closing their eyes to those truly out to destroy us. Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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