Gun attack at Moscow concert leaves dead and injured: mayor

Fire quickly spread through the Crocus City Hall (Sergei VEDYASHKIN)
Fire quickly spread through the Crocus City Hall (Sergei VEDYASHKIN)

Gunmen opened fire at a rock concert in a Moscow suburb Friday leaving dead and wounded before a major fire spread through the theatre, Moscow's mayor and Russian news agencies reported.

Attackers dressed in camouflaged outfits entered the building, opened fire and threw a grenade or incendiary bomb, according to a journalist for the RIA Novosti news agency who was at the scene.

Russia's foreign ministry called the incident a "terrorist attack" that had to be condemned.

Fire quickly spread through the Crocus City Hall, north of the Russian capital, where the theatre can hold several thousand people and has staged several concerts by top international artists, according to the reports.

No details were given on casualties but Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin confirmed there were deaths in what he called a "terrible tragedy" at the concert by Russian rock band Piknik.

Automatic gunfire was used on the audience, the RIA Novosti journalist reported.

"People who were in the hall were led on the ground to protect themselves from the shooting for 15 or 20 minutes," the journalist was quoted as saying.

People started crawling out when it was safe, the journalist reported, adding that security forces were at the scene.

- 'Odious crime' -

About 100 people escaped through the theatre basement while others were sheltering on the the roof, the emergency services ministry said on its Telegram channel.

Telegram news channels Baza and Mash, which are close to security forces, showed video images of flames and black smoke pouring from the concert hall.

Other images showed two men walking through the hall with at least one person left on the ground near the entrance. Spectators were also seen hiding behind seats or trying to escape.

Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it had been a "terrorist attack".

"The whole international community must condemn this odious crime," she said on Telegram.

The US presidency called the attack "terrible" but said there was no immediate indication of any link to the war in Ukraine.

"I offer my condolences to the families of the dead," said Moscow's mayor as a major security operation was launched around the theatre and nearby shopping mall.

Sobyanin said he had cancelled all public events in Moscow for the weekend.

TASS news agency said that SOBR and special police forces and the OMON anti-riot squad had been sent to the Crocus hall.

It added that all the members of the rock band had been evacuated safely.

Orthodox church leader Patriarch Kirill  was "praying for peace for the souls of the dead," said his spokesman Vladimir Legoyda.