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Casualties in Moscow shootout near FSB security service office

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Moscow (AFP)

A gunman opened fire near an office of Russia's FSB security service in central Moscow on Thursday, causing casualties and prompting the security service to "neutralise" the shooter.

The gunfire broke out around 6:45 pm (1545 GMT) by the office, in an area close to the main headquarters of the FSB security service in Lubyanka Square, the heart of the Russian capital.

Footage shot by a passer by showing people running in panic while armed officers made their way towards the scene, taking cover behind parked cars.

The FSB security service said in a statement to Russian news agencies about 30 minutes later that the gunman has been "neutralised", without giving further details.

"An unknown individual opened fire near building number 12 on Bolshaya Lubyanka street, there are casualties. The identity of the criminal is being established. The criminal has been neutralised," the FSB said.

AFP correspondents in the area however heard more gunfire and were told to move back by police.

Witness Andrei Molchanov told AFP at the scene he saw one body and had heard automatic weapons fire.

Several videos shot from different vantage points showed armed men running out of the office as gunfire rang out.

- Putin informed -

Authorities have closed traffic on the Bolshaya Lubyanka street, the official Moscow traffic Twitter account said.

The Moscow metro said passenger access may be "limited at the request of police officers" at the nearest Lubyanka metro station.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said police have cordoned off the area of the incident and were not letting pedestrians pass, while three ambulances were going to the site.

The incident came on the eve of the Day of Security Service in Russia which is celebrated on December 20.

President Vladimir Putin also Thursday gave a speech marking a concert for the Russian security workers day, saying that at least 54-terror related crimes had been thwarted in Russia in 2019, including 33 attacks.

The Russian leader had earlier been in central Moscow for his annual marathon press conference with journalists that lasted almost four and a half hours.

Putin has been informed about the incident, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

Russia has in the last years been hit by a spate of attacks blamed on Islamist militants, often harking from the restive Northern Caucasus region.

A Russian court earlier this month sentenced 11 people to terms including life in prison after finding them guilty of a deadly bomb attack on the Saint Petersburg metro in 2017 that killed 15 people and wounded dozens more.

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