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Moscow concert attack: Suspects travelled to Turkey to renew Russian visa

Two of the four Moscow attack suspects, both Tajik nationals, travelled to Turkey in February to renew their visa-free stay in Russia, Turkish authorities told MEE
Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda, a suspect in the shooting attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue, sits behind a glass wall of an enclosure for defendants at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, 24 March 2024 (Reuters/Yulia Morozova)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Two men accused of carrying out the 22 March attack on Moscow’s Crocus City concert hall travelled to Turkey in February to renew their visa-free stay in Russia, according to Turkish authorities. 

Four armed assailants in camouflaged clothing burst into the music venue on Friday, killing at least 139 individuals and setting the building ablaze.  

Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda and Shamsidin Fariduni, both Tajik nationals, entered Turkey from Russia in February, a Turkish official told Middle East Eye. 

Their prolonged stay in Moscow led to the expiration of their 90-day visa-free visit entitlement, which is granted to citizens of Tajikistan by Russia.  

“They briefly visited Turkey to reset their visa-free stay and chose it due to its proximity to Russia,” the Turkish official explained. “As there were no alerts against them, they could freely travel back and forth between Turkey and Russia with their passports.”

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According to the official, Fariduni arrived at Istanbul airport from Russia on 20 February, staying at a hotel in Istanbul’s Fatih district until 27 February. 

Rachabalizoda also went to Turkey, arriving on 5 January and staying at a Fatih hotel until 21 January. 

Both men were reported to have returned to Moscow on the same flight on 2 March. “We believe that these individuals were radicalised in Russia, as the brief duration of their stay is insufficient for such a process of radicalisation,” the Turkish official said.

The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the Moscow attack. Affiliated media outlets have broadcast unsettling footage depicting the assailants inside the venue.

Moscow concert hall attack: Islamic State claims responsibility
Read More »

“We know that the crime was committed by the hands of radical Islamists,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a meeting with government officials late on Monday.

This was the first time Putin, who also suggested the attack might still be linked to Ukraine, has publicly acknowledged the identity of the attackers.

When the four men accused of the attack appeared in a Moscow court on Sunday, they appeared badly injured. 

Rachabalizoda arrived with gauze over his ear, after a video was released online that appeared to show one of his captors slicing off his ear and putting it into the Tajik’s mouth, telling him to eat it. 

Footage published on a Telegram account linked to the Wagner Group also appeared to show Fariduni being tortured. 

Turkish officials have recently launched significant operations against those suspected of ties to IS, as reported by a government spokesperson on Tuesday. 

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced on social media that security forces had detained 147 suspects during synchronised raids in 30 cities across the nation.

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