Casualties reported in shootout near security service office in Moscow, gunman ‘neutralised’

Security officers block a street near the Federal Security Service (FSB) building after a shooting incident, in Moscow, Russia December 19, 2019.
Security officers block a street near the Federal Security Service (FSB) building after a shooting incident, in Moscow, Russia December 19, 2019. Shamil Zhumatov, REUTERS

Gunfire broke out in central Moscow near an office of the FSB security service Thursday, with armed officers seen running through a busy shopping area. FSB says it has "neutralised" a gunman who opened fire and confirmed the assault left at least one of its employees dead, in a statement carried by Russian news agencies, which reported several people were wounded.


"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," agencies quoted the FSB as saying, without giving further details.

It added later that "one FSB officer has died," and denied some reports of multiple gunmen, insisting there was only one attacker. AFP correspondents in the area however heard more gunfire in the area two hours later, as police cordons remained around the area. Witness Andrei Molchanov told AFP at the scene he saw one body and had heard rounds of automatic weapons fire.

The FSB, which Putin used to head, said several people had been wounded in the attack. The Interfax news agency cited the Health Ministry as saying five people had been hurt, some of them seriously, including two FSB employees. Five ambulances were seen leaving the cordoned-off area.

Russia's domestic security service said it was working to establish the gunman's identity, Interfax reported. It was not immediately clear what his motive was.

Several videos shot from different vantage points showed armed men running out of the office as gunfire rang out, with some reports saying there were casualties.

Authorities have closed traffic on Bolshaya Lubyanka street, the official Moscow traffic Twitter account said, without giving any reason.

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 happened near the headquarters of the FSB security service, ahead of the Day of Security Service celebrated on December 20.

Putin was aware of the incident, Russian news agencies cited the Kremlin as saying.

The attack happened shortly after President Vladimir Putin had delivered his annual news conference and while he was speaking at a Kremlin event designed to celebrate the work of the security services.

Russia has in the last few years been hit by a spate of attacks blamed on Islamist militants, often hailing 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.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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