An unusually accurate warning. The US told Russia in advance that the Crocus concert hall was a possible target of a terrorist attack – Washington Post

An unusually accurate warning. The US told Russia in advance that the Crocus concert hall was a possible target of a terrorist attack – Washington Post
An unusually accurate warning. The US told Russia in advance that the Crocus concert hall was a possible target of a terrorist attack – Washington Post
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More than two weeks before terrorists staged a bloody attack on the outskirts of Moscow, the US government told Russian officials that the Crocus Hall, a popular concert venue, was a potential target, the Washington Post writes.

Crocus City Hall concert hall in Moscow on firePhoto: Sergei Vedyashkin / AP / Profimedia

The high degree of specificity of the warning sent to Russia – something previously unknown – underscores Washington’s belief that Islamic State was preparing an attack that threatened large numbers of civilians and appeared to contradict Moscow’s claims that US messages were too general to help prevent the attack.

The US identification of the Crocus concert hall as a potential target raises new questions about why Russian authorities did not take stronger measures to protect the concert venue, where gunmen killed more than 140 people and they set fire to the building.

A branch of the Islamic State claimed the attack, the bloodiest in the last 20 years in Russia. US officials have said publicly that the group, known as the Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K, “bears sole responsibility” for the tragedy, but Russian President Vladimir Putin and his subordinates have tried to shift the blame to Ukraine.

The Russian leader himself publicly rejected the US warnings just three days before the March 22 attack, saying the US messages were “blackmail” and an attempt to “intimidate and destabilize our society”.

U.S. officials familiar with the information Washington shared with Moscow spoke on condition of anonymity. Earlier, the Security Council acknowledged that the United States had passed information “about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow”, but did not specify that the Crocus concert hall was mentioned as a possible target.

Why was the warning so accurate

The Kremlin did not respond to questions from The Washington Post about the precise warning. But on Tuesday, Sergei Narishkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, said the information shared by the United States was “too general and did not allow us to fully identify those who committed this terrible crime,” according to the agency state Interfax.

Naryshkin said that in response to the US intelligence, Russia “took appropriate measures to prevent” an attack.

But video footage from the scene of the slaughter shows the attackers met no significant resistance. Russian media reported that specialized police units arrived more than an hour after the attack began, and then waited more than 30 minutes before entering the building, by which time the attackers had already escaped.

Although Washington routinely shares information about possible terrorist attacks with foreign countries, it is unusual for it to provide information about specific targets to an adversary, several officials and experts said. In doing so, the Secret Service risks revealing how the United States obtained the information, jeopardizing clandestine surveillance activities or the sources that provided the information.

But the information that indicated an attack on the concert hall also indicated a potential danger to Americans in Russia. On March 7, the US Embassy publicly announced that it was “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, including concerts” and advised American citizens to “avoid large gatherings for the next 48 hours.”

The United States shared the information with Russia a day before that public warning, according to people familiar with the matter. Naryshkin said “American intelligence agencies” passed the information to the FSB, Russia’s state security service.

Moscow seems to have taken the warning seriously. Initial

Despite the lack of security at the Crocus concert hall, there are indications that, at least initially, the Russian government took Washington’s warning – which included information about Islamic State plans to attack a synagogue – seriously, according to a US official. A day after Moscow received this information, the FSB announced that it had prevented an attack by the terrorist organization on a synagogue in Moscow.

Islam Halilov, a 15-year-old boy who said he was working in the concert hall’s wardrobe the night of the attack, said staff at the concert hall were informed of the possibility of a terrorist attack shortly after the March 7 public warning.

“We were warned that there could be terrorist attacks and we were instructed on what to do and where to take people,” Halilov said in an interview with Dmitri Yegorov, a well-known Russian sports journalist, that was posted on YouTube.

Why security was not increased and sustained after the initial warning remains unclear. It is possible that Russian security services, which saw no attack in the days immediately following March 7, assumed that the US information was incorrect and let their guard down, some US officials speculated, quoted by the Washington Post.

And the suspects’ plans may have changed after the US public warning

​According to information cited by the Ukrainian news agency Unian, the perpetrators of the Moscow attack had originally planned to carry out the attack at the Crocus concert hall on March 9, at a concert by Shaman, voted by Russians “the best singer of 2023” and considered to be a voice of Kremlin propaganda.

But the plans were overturned by the US Embassy’s warning of a terrorist attack that could target “large gatherings” in Moscow.

According to Unian, before the attack on March 22, one of the attackers, Şamsidin Fariduni, repeatedly went to the Crocus concert hall to study the place, one of the times being March 7.

Previously, the attackers would have targeted another place, there are images of Shamsidin Fariduni at the cultural center in Klimovsk.

Over the past few days it has become clear that it is not only the US that has warned Russia of a possible attack.

“Within days of the attack in Russia, Tehran provided Moscow with information about a possible major terrorist attack inside Russia obtained during interrogations among those arrested after the deadly bombings in Iran,” a source told Reuters.

The article is in Romanian

Tags: unusually accurate warning told Russia advance Crocus concert hall target terrorist attack Washington Post

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