Investigating ISIS involvement behind Crocus City Hall massacre

Ukraine border, Russia-Ukraine, ISIS, Shamsidin Fariduni, Crocus City Hall, ISIS jihadists

March 22 has been a sad day for the Russians as well as nations and individuals with conscience throughout the world as a massive concert venue namely Crocus City Hall in the city of Krasnogorsk on the outskirts of Moscow city came under gruesome terrorist massacre killing 144 people and injuring dozens. According to information, Crocus City Hall auditorium has a capacity of 7,500 people. Immediately following the massacre, while Ukraine and the United States made some extremely dubious statements, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility which is seen by counterterrorism experts as doubtful. Even before Russian authorities began investigation into the matter, the West started claiming that the ISKP’s statement claiming responsibility was “genuine”. Statements from Washington were first reported by some media outlets such as CNN and Reuters, which was later picked up by Western officials. On March 25, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement insisted that Islamic State (ISIS) was behind the Crocus City Hall massacre.

In my opinion, the Crocus City Hall massacre does not match with similar attacks by Islamic State. Moreover, even if the March 22 massacre was implemented by ISIS or ISKP, it does not relieve Ukraine as well as the United States and Washington’s European allies from being held responsible.

Commenting on the March 22 massacre, former US Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter said, “This was a political act linked to an American policy objective being implemented by Ukrainian intelligence services”.

He said, “These aren’t hardcore ISIS followers. These are people who self-identified as ISIS by posting an image that was picked up by the ISIS media arm and then published and ISIS looked at it and said, ‘okay, they’re doing all the right things. They published a photo, they made Shahada – announced the creed of Islam. So, we’re going to say yes, this is ISIS, this is ours’”.

Ritter added that the attackers attempted to return to their “true north” of Ukraine after the attack rather than going out as professed “martyrs”. “These aren’t jihadists, these are mercenaries”, Ritter concluded. “These are people who took money to commit an act of irregular warfare”.

Scott Ritter explained various aspects of the attackers’ alleged profession of faith seem amiss.

“Shahada is the Islamic creed that is extraordinarily important because that’s how one says ‘I am Muslim’”. It’s a very pious act. It only counts if it’s meant seriously. And there’s nothing in the Islamic religion that says that you have to raise a finger. That is something that has come into trend with jihadists because Osama bin Laden did that”.

“So, you’ll see a lot of al-Qaeda Islamists do Shahada raising their right hand”, he continued. “Right hand, by the way, is very important – it’s the hand of righteousness, it’s the clean hand, it’s the hand that does good. The left hand is the hand of Satan, the hand of evil, the hand that does bad”.

“These four perpetrators of this action in Moscow posted a photograph of them giving Shahada with their left hand, which tells you they have no clue what they’re doing”, said Ritter. “These aren’t Muslims. These aren’t real Muslims. These are people who are pretending to be Muslims”.

Ritter also pointed to the fact that the perpetrators fled the scene of the terrorist attack afterwards, rather than fighting to the death. Islamic terrorists typically go out as “martyrs”, he noted, following their “true north” to eternal reward in Heaven. Friday’s attackers instead attempted to flee to Ukraine, suggesting their “true north” is Kiev.

“The biggest takeaway, though, is that they blurred their faces,” he claimed. “If you’re getting ready to announce your creed to Islam and you’re going to be a martyr, navigating true north to heaven and the 72 virgins that await you, you want your faces seen. You’re announcing this piously, publicly. They blurred their faces. Why?”

“It’s a political act, it had nothing to do with Islam or nothing to do with a conflict between Russia and Islamic forces in Afghanistan or Syria. This was a political act linked to an American policy objective being implemented by Ukrainian intelligence services”, Ritter added.

These years, we have witnessed the strategy followed by ISIS jihadists including those committing crimes as lone wolves. The strategy is – anyone who supported the jihadists, wherever they lived, could record a video with an oath of allegiance to the “caliph”, send it via an automated feedback bot, and then commit a terrorist act. Often it was only the perpetrator who died, but for ISIS, this didn’t matter – it only cared about being mentioned in connection with the terrorist activity, which is why the organization occasionally took responsibility for crimes that it had nothing to do with. In other words – for ISIS, claiming responsibility of any terrorist act, where it even does not have distant connections is a method of letting the world know – this global terrorist group is active despite the fact of its current situation where its capacities are on fast decline.

The terrorist attack in Crocus City Hall, however, mostly does not match with the straightforward strategy usually adopted by ISIS. In fact, the choice of a rock concert as the site of the terrorist attack is almost the only common feature between this attack and other acts of terror it has committed.

Four people who had not previously known each other were recruited to carry out the terrorist attack. One of them, Shamsidin Fariduni, was in Türkiye in February, and from there he flew to Russia on March 4. He spent at least ten days in Türkiye and investigators are currently determining who he communicated with while there.

According to unofficial information, he met with a certain “Islamic preacher” in Istanbul. However, it is also known that the terrorists corresponded with the “preacher’s assistant”. According to Fariduni, this anonymous person sponsored and organized the terrorist attack. First of all – this is not the way of someone being radicalized just within ten days.

After arriving in Russia, Fariduni visited Crocus City Hall on March 7 in order to see the site where the crime was to be committed. From this, we may conclude that the attack was to take place soon after his arrival from Türkiye. On the same day, the US embassy in Russia warned its citizens to avoid large gatherings “over the next 48 hours” due to possible attacks by extremists.

None of the terrorists planned to “join the Houris in paradise” (72 virgins in Muslim heaven) as is usual for ISIS followers. After shooting people in Crocus City Hall and setting the building on fire, they did not attack the special forces which arrived at the scene and instead got in a car and fled from Moscow. Neither did they wear “suicide belts” – a characteristic detail of ISIS followers who are ready to die after committing their crime.

Another detail which is uncharacteristic for ISIS is – the monetary reward promised to the terrorists. The payment was supposed to be made in two installments – before and after the attack. The terrorists had already received the first payment, amounting to US$2,700. This is distinctively different from other ISIS cases of terrorist acts, where its fighters never participate in exchange or money. It was rather a case where some parties had hired these individuals for staging the massacre.

Most importantly – immediately after the massacre, terrorists were fleeing through Russia-Ukraine border and while they were chased by law enforcement agencies, none of them attempted to commit suicide. They were also not wearing suicide vest – which in mandatory in such cases. Meaning, none of these terrorists are ISIS. They are hired mercenaries – killers. Hopefully soon we shall know – who had hired them.


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