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

Sky News has analysed IS 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”.

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

The video

A day after the attack, IS 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 IS 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 IS 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 AK-47s they will still have a knife to stab.”

While IS 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 IS video from the attack. Pic: Islamic State affiliated media

Dr Antonio Giustozzi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the way IS 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 IS image

IS 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 IS flag.

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

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

Sky News has analysed and compared the IS 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 IS 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 IS 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 IS image (left), visible from a screenshot of the IS 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 IS 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 IS”, 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.

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Terrror suspects appear with face injuries

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 IS-K militants.

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Baby saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike

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Baby saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike

Palestinians in Rafah are reeling from a series of devastating Israeli airstrikes that have killed 22 people – including 18 children.

The last 48 hours, horrific even by Gaza’s standards, are an indicator of what may follow in any Israeli Rafah offensive.

Doctors told the Sky News team in Gaza how they saved the life of an unborn baby even as her mother was dying from head injuries.

Follow latest: Netanyahu vows to ‘increase pressure on Hamas in coming days’

“We tried to rescue the patient,” Dr Ahmad Fawzi said.

“We realised that she was pregnant.

“We had to do an emergency caesarean to save the baby.

“Thanks to God, we managed to save the baby.”

A medic holds a Palestinian newborn girl after she was pulled alive from the womb of her mother Sabreen Al-Sheikh (Al-Sakani), who was killed in an Israeli strike, along with her husband Shokri and her daughter Malak, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at a hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in this still image taken from a video recorded April 20, 2024. Reuters TV via REUTERS
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The Palestinian baby girl was saved from the womb of her mother. Pic: Reuters

The little girl lies in an incubator.

She has no name but there is tape attached to her hand with writing that says: “The baby of the martyr Sabreen al Sakani”.

The baby’s mother Sabreen, her father Shoukri, and three-year-old sister Malak all died in the Israeli airstrike.

Her uncle says he will care for her now.

The Palestinian baby girl was saved from the womb of her mother. Pic: Reuters
Image:
The Palestinian baby girl was saved from the womb of her mother. Pic: Reuters

Also in Rafah, another airstrike killed 17 children and two women all from the same extended family, say Palestinians.

There were heartbreaking scenes at the hospital as relatives mourned the children being placed in body bags.

A relative, Umm Kareem, told how the children were killed as they slept in their beds, saying: “These children were sleeping. What did they do? What was their fault?

“Pregnant women at home, sleeping children, the husband’s aunt is 80 years old.

“What did this woman do? Did she fire missiles? We complain about our concerns to God.”

The strikes, all in Rafah, have provoked unusually sharp criticism of Israel by the UK government.

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Families mourn as airstrike kills children

Lord Ahmad, foreign minister for the Middle East, tweeted that he was “appalled by the Israeli strike, on a residential apartment in the densely populated Rafah in Gaza, which resulted in more children being killed”.

“We must stop this fighting immediately and bring an end to this conflict,” he added.

But there is no end in sight. Quite the opposite.

Read more:
Trail of destruction in Lebanon’s ‘ghost towns’
Situation in northern Israel ‘untenable’
Are Israel and Lebanon heading for war?

In an address to the nation ahead of Passover, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used language from the Bible to hint at what might be coming for Rafah.

The enemy, he said, is “hardening its heart and refusing to let our people go”.

“Therefore, we will strike it with additional painful blows – and this will happen soon,” he added.

Israel’s government says it must take the fight to Hamas in Rafah to bring back its hostages and destroy the enemy, but far more civilians are being killed than Hamas fighters in this war.

Rafah is the most densely-populated area of Gaza. And when the offensive begins here, many more will die.

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Trail of destruction in Lebanon’s ‘ghost towns’ – as daily explosions fuel fears of escalating war

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Trail of destruction in Lebanon's 'ghost towns' - as daily explosions fuel fears of escalating war

The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon has told Sky News the dangers in the region have not gone away and called for calm, wisdom and de-escalation as a matter of urgency.

Joanna Wronecka spoke from her office in Beirut about her worries and appealed for restraint from all those involved.

“I’m very concerned,” she said. “Because we need just a small miscalculation and the situation can escalate even more.”

She was referring to the spike in cross-border firing between the Israeli military and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters who’ve been trading attacks with growing intensity since 7 October.

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka
Image:
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka

It’s resulted in around 100,000 Lebanese fleeing their homes along the border and around 80,000 being forced to leave their communities on the Israeli side.

We saw a trail of destruction as we joined a UN peacekeepers patrol in south Lebanon.

UNIFIL peacekeepers
Image:
UN peacekeepers on patrol in south Lebanon.


Village after village, town after town have been left like ghost towns, with those homes still standing now emptied of residents. We saw multiple houses and buildings flattened, craters in roads and acres of farmland left burned and unusable.

In Alma Shaab town, a few hardy folk have opted to stay despite the dangers.

“It’s dangerous to stay here,” Nader Eid said. “But we have to. We have to survive and we have to keep our home safe… and to keep Alma safe.”

Read more:
Middle East violence ‘will not stop until Gaza war ends’
Situation in northern Israel ‘untenable’
Are Israel and Lebanon heading for war?

Exchange of fire is regular and often

Walking past crushed buildings which were once people’s homes, Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Vio from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) says the exchange of fire and attacks is regular and often.

“For sure, it’s daily,” he says. “Every day we can count some different kind of activity and in different numbers.”

The UN mission in the country, only weeks ago, marked its 46th anniversary but used it to call for all involved to lay down their weapons and talk peace.

Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Vio
Image:
Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Vio

Before the Hamas attack inside Israel on 7 October, the border area was judged to have enjoyed a relative period of calm and stability but that all changed with the events across the border.

Since then Hezbollah fighters and Israeli troops have been exchanging more and more serious fire, violating the terms of an earlier agreement contained in the UN Resolution 1701.

That agreement preserved what’s known as the Blue Line – an official demarcation area on disputed territory between Lebanon and Israel. All sides agreed this would be a demilitarised zone with no militia or military engagement in this area.

But Israeli forces continue to strike inside Lebanon at locations they say are being used by Hezbollah to mount attacks inside Israel.

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IDF footage of alleged strikes on Hezbollah

Hezbollah argues they are mounting strikes in support of the Palestinians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza, as well as distracting IDF troops on a separate additional front.

There are many suspicions among the Lebanese that the Israeli attacks are an attempt to snatch territory from them.

Whatever the motivations, the daily explosions have fuelled concerns across the region over the potential for the war to escalate hugely, drawing in multiple militias in multiple countries.

‘Lebanon is in a very sensitive place’

Ms Wronecka says: “One mistake, one miscalculation can make a difference and put this region in a completely new situation. And taking Lebanon’s geopolitical position into account, Lebanon is in a very sensitive place.

“So we deploy every day, every moment to speak about responsibility and restraint.”

Lebanon is home to around 250,000 Palestinian refugees, among them an 85-year-old man called Abu Jamal.

He fled to safety in Lebanon more than seven decades ago during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The hugely traumatic event became known as the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) and saw more than half the Palestinian population displaced and dispossessed with many never returning to their homes.

Abu Jamal with his key
Image:
Abu Jamal

‘I pray to see my country… before I die’

Mr Jamal sees many parallels between what’s happening now in Gaza and what he fears may happen in parts of Lebanon too.

He was eight when he left his family home – a day he remembers with searing clarity.

He has a large key which he says was the key to his family’s front door, now part of Israel. He said: “My dad told me that it would be one or two months and we’d go back home – and we’ve been here in Lebanon for 76 years.

“This is the key to our home. I’m still hanging it in my bedroom. I pray to God we return back to our country Palestine. I pray I see my country and our land before I die.”

Reporting with cameraman Jake Britton, specialist producer Chris Cunningham and Lebanon producer Jihad Jineid.

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‘Ukraine will not be the second Afghanistan,’ says Zelenskyy after US aid package approval

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'Ukraine will not be the second Afghanistan,' says Zelenskyy after US aid package approval

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the crucial US aid package for Ukraine sends “sends a powerful signal” that his country “will not be the second Afghanistan”.

After months of deadlock, Democrats and Republicans joined together in the US House of Representatives to approve a package – worth $60.8bn (£49bn) – to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

Speaking on NBC News show Meet The Press, Mr Zelenskyy said the aid is “a show of leadership from the United States”.

“This aid will strengthen Ukraine and send the Kremlin a powerful signal that it will not be the second Afghanistan,” he said.

“The US will stay with Ukraine, they will protect Ukrainians and democracy.

“Half a year we have been waiting. Now we have reached this important moment and this positive vote.”

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Moment US approved $60.8bn Ukraine aid

The aid package will now go to the US Senate, where it is expected to be passed on Tuesday.

During the months of delays, some Republicans were critical of the aid proposal and argued America should be focussing on its own southern border instead of European ones.

Asked about the opposition, Mr Zelenskyy said: “The Americans are not funding the war. They, first and foremost, protect freedom and democracy all over Europe.

“Ukraine is fighting, and sending it sons and daughters to the front line. It reduces the price for the whole Europe, NATO and the US.

“The US army does not have to fight to protect NATO countries – Ukrainians are doing that. It’s only the ammo that [aid] is providing.

Read more from Sky News:
What the aid package means for Ukraine
Man arrested over ‘plot to assassinate Zelenskyy’

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‘Grateful’ Zelenskyy reacts to US aid

‘We will have a chance for victory’

Addressing how the money will be used, Mr Zelenskyy said he hopes to get “tangible assistance to soldiers on the frontline as soon as possible”.

“We will have a chance for victory if Ukraine really gets the weapons system which we need so much,” he said. “This support will really strengthen the armed forces.”

Ukraine’s priorities are long-range artillery and air defences, Mr Zelenskyy added.

The US House’s decision to approve the aid was praised by UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron, who called the funding “a vital step forward”.

“If Putin ever doubted the West’s resolve to back Ukraine, this shows our collective will is undimmed,” he wrote on X.

“With support, Ukraine can and will win.”

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