Expert says Moscow attack carried out by ISIS – what videos and photos can tell us

Expert says Moscow attack carried out by ISIS – what videos and photos can tell us
  • PublishedMarch 26, 2024

ISIS video shows the attackers storming the Crocus Hall with guns and knives. An expert on jihadist groups says the “attack, the type of people involved, the style of the attack and the media campaign” is all “Islamic State modus operandi”.

An expert has told Sky News the attack on a Moscow concert hall is consistent with Islamic State.

Sky News has analysed ISIS footage of the attack and an image released by the militant group and spoken to experts about what the materials reveal.

Aaron Zelin, an expert on jihadist groups and senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said “the attack itself, the type of people involved, the style of the attack and the media campaign” is all “Islamic State modus operandi”.

ISIS has said it carried out the attack, and US officials have said their intelligence indicates that an Afghan affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), was responsible. However, Vladimir Putin has not publicly mentioned IS in connection with the assailants.

The video

A day after the attack, ISIS released a video of the assailants inside Crocus Hall via the militant group’s Amaq news agency which shows a number of gunmen storming the building and attacking people.

Screenshot of ISIS video from the attack. Pic: Islamic state affiliated media
Image:Screenshot of ISIS video from the attack. Pic: Islamic state affiliated media

The attackers are seen holding guns and also knives. More than 130 people were killed and over 180 others were injured on Friday night.

Mr Zelin said the type of weapons used in the attack are consistent with ISIS methods. “We’ve seen in past attacks they shoot people and stab people… They have as many weapons on them as possible so they can inflict as much damage on them as possible.

“So, if they end up using all their bullets and cartridges or AK47s they will still have a knife to stab.”

While ISIS has also used other methods in previous attacks, including suicide attacks, another expert said that it would likely be easier to “procure firearms in Russia”.

Screenshot of ISIS video from the attack. Pic: Islamic state affiliated media
Image:Screenshot of ISIS video from the attack. Pic: Islamic state affiliated media

Dr Antonio Giustozzi, a senior research fellow at Royal United Services Institute, said the way ISIS carries out attacks “depends on the kind of weapons they can obtain”.

“So explosives, especially plastic explosives that you can use for suicide belts is not so easy to procure…. It’s probably easier to procure firearms in Russia.” He added the “exact choice of weapons can be dictated by what’s available on the black market”.

Clothing worn by suspects match ISIS image

ISIS also released an earlier image which they say shows some of the people behind the Moscow attack. It shows four people with blurred faces in front of an ISIS flag.

Pic: Islamic state affiliated media
Image:Pic: Islamic state affiliated media

Mr Zelin said images “pledging allegiance to the leader of ISIS” are part of the group’s media campaign.

Sky News has analysed and compared the ISIS image to subsequent interrogation videos and images by Russian authorities and other photos later taken of the four suspects in court. We used a facial recognition tool and analysed the clothing worn by the suspects.

Clothing worn by three of the people seen in the ISIS image matches those seen in other videos and images appearing in the aftermath of the attack.

Pic: Islamic state affiliated media
Image:Pic: Islamic state affiliated media

We brightened the ISIS image above and matched details on the t-shirts worn by three of the people – to other images and videos on Telegram showing them being interrogated by Russian authorities.

The detailing of a logo on a t-shirt worn by one of the suspects in the image below appears blurred in the ISIS image (left), visible from a screenshot of the ISIS video (centre) and again on the t-shirt in an aftermath video (right).

ISIS released image (left), screenshot of ISIS video (centre) and screenshot of video circulating on Telegram (right). Pic: Islamic state affiliated media
Image:ISIS released image (left), screenshot of ISIS video (centre) and screenshot of video circulating on Telegram (right). Pic: Islamic state affiliated media

The suspects have been named as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda, Muhammadsobir Fayzov and Shamsidin Fariduni.

We cross referenced the aftermath imagery and videos to photos of the four suspects pictured in court using an AI facial recognition tool which confirmed they matched.

Dalerdzhon Barotovich Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Murodali, Rachabalizoda
Shamsidin Fariduni. Pics: Reuters
Image:Dalerdzhon Barotovich Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Murodali, Rachabalizoda Shamsidin Fariduni. Pics: Reuters

Mr Zelin said that while not all ISIS attacks are the same, there is a consistency to the group’s media campaign.

He explained they often include a line to first claim responsibility, followed by a longer statement, then “photographic evidence of the individuals pledging allegiance to the leader of ISIS”, followed by some form of video of the attack or to do with the attack.

“It’s definitely a template they use, part of it is to keep them in the news for a longer time,” he added.

Claiming responsibility for attack

Experts are convinced no other group is responsible.

Dr Giustozzi said: “This is about, intimidating, spreading terror and primarily the recruitment and funding for the militant group.”

Mr Zelin said in the aftermath of attack, he had seen in their “different types of propaganda in a number of different languages that they are trying to recruit people”.

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has not publicly mentioned Islamic State in connection with the assailants, who he said had been trying to flee to Ukraine with help from “the Ukrainian side”.

Ukraine has denied any role and Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Putin of seeking to divert blame.

Washington said it had warned Russia this month of an imminent attack. A source familiar with this intelligence said it was based on interceptions of “chatter” among ISIS-K militants.

SOURCE: SKYNEWS

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