At least 19 people, many of them teenagers, were killed, and over 50 others were injured in a bomb and shooting attack at a college in Crimea that local officials said was carried out by a student.
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Investigators said a lone 18-year-old student at the state polytechnic college entered the school on Wednesday afternoon armed with a gun and began shooting people and also setting off a bomb planted in the college’s cafeteria, before killing himself.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, the equivalent of the FBI, said it believed the attacker was Vladislav Roslyakov, a fourth-year student at the college which is in the Black Sea city of Kerch on Crimea’s east coast.
Roslyakov was captured on CCTV entering the college holding a gun shortly before the shooting began, said Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the committee.
“His body was found in the school with a gunshot wound,” Petrenko said in a statement. “Judging by the picture of the crime, investigators believe the young man shot and killed people in the school before committing suicide.”
Russian authorities initially treated the incident as a terrorist attack. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal probe based around terror charges but later reclassified the case as one of “mass murder” after Roslyakov was identified.
Russia’s National Terrorism Committee said investigators had later found a second explosive device in the school and disarmed it.
The death-toll for Wednesday’s attack is currently 19, with 52 injured and being treated in hospital, the Centre for Medical Catastrophes and Emergencies, Sergey Astankin told the state TV channel, Russia 24.
The first indication of the attack were reports of an explosion at the college. Police said, that was a homemade bomb, packed with metal objects in the cafeteria. Inside, students who witnessed the attack said, the gunman had moved down a corridor shooting at anyone he saw.
Semyon Gavrilov, a student at the school told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that he had looked out of a classroom and seen “a guy walking around with a rifle and shooting everyone.”
Gavrilov said he shut himself in the room and about 10 minutes later police with assault rifles arrived. “In the corridor where the explosion went off the windows were broken. There were dead bodies sprawled around the floor. All the walls were charred,” Gavrilov told the newspaper.
The school’s director, Olga Grebennikova, said she had left the school about 5-10 minutes before the attack began.
“They were running, throwing plastic bags with explosives, then they were running with assault rifles — I don’t know with what — around the second floor, opening rooms and killing everyone they could find,” Grebennikova told KerchNet, a local Crimean television station shortly after the attack. “There are many corpses, lots of children,” Grebennikova said, starting to cry.
Videos shot by students on mobile phones during the attack have appeared in the Russian media. One, published by the popular messenger channel, Mash, showed students outside the college building first laughing when the bomb-blast appeared to go off and then growing quiet as they realise an explosion has happened and as gunshots can be heard from inside.
Roslyakov lived with his mother in Kerch. Local television news reports said she is a nurse and that she had been helping tend to the victims at the school, without knowing her son was behind the assault.
Sergey Aksyonov, the head of Crimea’s regional government said on state television that Roslyakov had never been in trouble with police. “He never stood out for some kind of aggression, he sat quiet,” Aksyonov said on the state channel, Russia 24.
A three-day mourning has been declared in Crimea. President Vladimir Putin, who was in Sochi meeting with the Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Siss when the attack occurred, called it a “tragic event”. “It’s already clear this is a crime,” Putin told reporters, saying the public would be informed of the results of the investigation once security services had completed it.
In the first minutes after the explosion, local authorities in Crimea– which Russia seized control of from Ukraine in 2014– responded as though it was a terror attack, and state television showed armored vehicles and heavily armed troops rushing towards the college. About 200 soldiers and 10 military vehicles were deployed to assist at the bomb site, TASS reported, citing local military officials.
Kerch is a well-known city in Crimea, the arrival point to the peninsula for ferries from Russia and now for a new 12-mile-long bridge built for $7 billion at Putin’s order.