The death toll from a gun attack on a concert hall near Moscow has risen to 133 as eyewitnesses recalled the moment that attackers armed with guns and incendiary devices stormed the popular venue on Friday night.

Friday’s assault, the deadliest terror attack on Russia’s capital in decades, comes less than a week after President Vladimir Putin secured victory in a stage-managed election, tightening his grip on the country he has ruled since the turn of the century.

Testimony emerged on social media, detailing the horrific scenes as survivors recalled playing dead to escape from the concert hall, where fires were still burning on Saturday.

“They [the assailants] were standing there at the exit,” one woman said on Instagram. “We got up and started walking. They saw us. Some of them ran back and started shooting at people. I fell on the floor and pretended I was dead. And the girl next to me was killed.

“Then the flames flared up and they closed the door. They probably couldn’t lock it. I lay breathing under the door. After some time, I crawled out, looked around, there was smoke everywhere, and I crawled towards the exit.”

Putin appeared to pin the blame on Ukraine for the deadly attack in a video statement released Saturday, in which he claimed that a “window” was prepared for attackers to escape to Ukraine. The Russian leader also described the deadly incident as a “barbaric terrorist attack” as he expressed deep condolences and declared Sunday a national day of mourning.

He showed gratitude to emergency service workers who “did everything to save people’s lives, to get them out from under fire, from the epicenter of fire and smoke,” and to avoid even greater losses.

In an update on Saturday, Russia’s Investigative Committee said the death toll had risen to 133.

“During the clearing of the rubble in the Crocus City Hall concert hall, the death toll as a result of the terrorist attack increased to 133 people. Search work continues,” the Committee said in a brief posting on Telegram.

In an update earlier Saturday, it said that four men suspected of carrying out the attack had been taken into custody while trying to cross Russia’s border with Ukraine. Earlier the terror group ISIS took responsibility for the attack but provided no evidence to support the claim.

“Special services and law enforcement agencies in the Bryansk region, near the border with Ukraine, detained four suspects from among those who committed a terrorist attack in the Crocus City Hall concert hall,” the committee said.

According to state-media RIA Novosti, “the weapons used by the terrorists were prepared in advance in a cache, the FSB (Security Service) reported.”

“After the terrorist attack, the criminals intended to cross the border of the Russian Federation and Ukraine and had relevant contacts on the Ukrainian side, the FSB said,” according to RIA Novosti.

Russian state news agency Tass also reported that the assailants had “contacts on the Ukrainian side. The terrorist attack in Crocus City Hall was carefully planned.”

Neither agency specified the nature of the alleged contacts.

Putin told the Russian people Saturday that the perpetrators had “tried to hide and move towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the border.”

In the recorded video address, Putin repeated what the Security Service or FSB had previously reported – that “all four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attack, all those who have shot people were found.”

He said that a total of 11 people had been detained and that the FSB and other agencies were working to establish “who provided them with transport, escape planned routes from the crime scene, prepared caches, caches of weapons and ammunition.”

Several Ukrainian agencies have categorically denied any connection with the attack.

Suspects detained

Video footage from the Crocus City Hall showed the vast complex, which is home to both a music hall and shopping center, on fire with smoke billowing into the air.

RIA Novosti reported the armed individuals “opened fire with automatic weapons” and “threw a grenade or an incendiary bomb, which started a fire.” They then “allegedly fled in a white Renault car,” the news agency said. A white Renault was later reportedly stopped near the city of Bryansk in the early hours of Saturday. Images showed it had been extensively damaged.

One woman who was inside the concert hall waiting for a performance to begin said on social media: “I saw people above running around, everyone was yelling, like, “Run!”… We started running, and then the shooting began…The next thing I know we’re just falling down the aisle.

“When I got up I cracked my head on a seat. Then we’re just jumping over … when we were running, when we realized that here they were, three or five meters behind us … We were running and then jumping onto the stage, where there was an immediate exit,” she said.

State media Russia 24 reported the roof of the venue partially collapsed. Rescuers continued to work at the scene on Saturday, the Russian Emergencies Ministries said, including in the auditorium where the ceiling had collapsed.

Firefighters were still working to extinguish fires on the roof, second and third floors of the Crocus City complex, according to the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. Rescue teams had already cleared 41 cubic meters of rubble.

Horrific scenes after gunmen opened fire

The carnage broke out before a concert by the band Picnic, according to Russia 24.

Video footage showed panic as the attack unfolded, with crowds of people huddling together, screaming and ducking behind cushioned seats as gunshots started echoing in the vast hall. One group sheltering next to a large wall of windows outside the concert venue were forced to break them to escape the gunfire, video obtained by CNN shows.

Footage geolocated by CNN shows an armed individual starting at least one fire inside the venue. The individual is seen carrying something in their hand and, as they walk off-screen, a bright flash of light from a large flame is seen in the video.

A SWAT team was called to the area and more than 70 ambulance teams and doctors assisted victims. According to the Kremlin, Putin was informed about the attack and is being kept updated on measures on the ground.

Putin wished those injured in the attack a speedy recovery, the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency said, and “conveyed his gratitude to the doctors.”

Picnic’s manager told state media that the performers were unharmed. Meanwhile, Shaman, the band’s singer, said he would pay for the funerals of the victims and treatment for those injured.

“We are all one big family. And in a family there is no such thing as somebody else’s grief,” the singer, known for his nationalistic views, said in a video posted on the Russian social media network Vkontakte to his more than 600,000 followers.

Several European leaders condemned the terror attack, with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron expressing “our deepest sympathy to the families of the many victims,” and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz referencing the “terrible terrorist attack on innocent concertgoers in Moscow.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping offered his condolences to Putin “over the serious terrorist attack that caused heavy casualties.”

Earlier this month, the US embassy in Russia said it was “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow,” including concerts. The embassy warned US citizens to avoid large gatherings. On Friday, following reports of the Crocus City Hall attack, it advised US citizens not to travel to Russia.

Starting in November, there has been a steady stream of intelligence that ISIS-K was determined to attack in Russia, according to two sources familiar with the information.

ISIS-K stands for ISIS-Khorasan, the terror organization’s affiliate that is active in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US government had had information about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow – potentially targeting large gatherings, to include concerts – and that this is what prompted the State Department to issue the public advisory.

In a speech Tuesday, Putin had blasted the American warnings as “provocative,” saying “these actions resemble outright blackmail and the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.”

A US official said Friday that Washington had no reason to doubt ISIS’ claim that it was responsible for the latest attack.

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