At least 19 people – students and others were killed along with dozens more being injured in a mass shooting incident carried out by another student in a college in Russia-annexed region of Crimea. There was also an explosion at the scene but Russian authorities are yet to confirm the source.
Russia's Investigative Committee said the attack was carried out by 18-year-old student Vladislav Roslyakov, who was captured on security camera footage carrying a gun in the technical college in Kerch, Crimea and whose body was later found with gunshot wounds. He was suspected to have turned the gun on himself after carrying out the mass shooting.
The Investigative Committee, which probes major incidents, had initially classified the attack as an act of terror, but later said it was investigating a mass murder after "this young man shot dead people in the college and then committed suicide," adding that all victims died of gunshot wounds.
Kerch is linked to the Russian mainland by a bridge opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin in May.
Witnesses said that the attacker fired shots but also spoke of hearing an explosion. A student at the college who asked not to give his name told AFP that "I was in a class when I heard shooting on the first floor. When we all ran out into the corridor, there were others running and shouting that some guy with a machine gun was randomly shooting everyone in turn." "Then a strong explosion went off, but thank God, I was already outside and saw our guys being thrown out of the windows by the explosive wave," he said, adding that part of the building collapsed.
Another witness who gave his name as Sergei and who worked nearby said in a video on the Kerch.tv website that he heard "a bang and shots." Sergei, whose shirt was covered in blood, said victims "were taken away in public transport, in minibuses and buses, with two or three people in each ambulance." "They are children and staff," the witness said. "I saw people without legs, without arms."
The attack had first been reported as an explosion, with Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee saying an "unidentified explosive device" had gone off. Committee spokesman Andrei Przhezdomsky said bomb squads were working "at the blast site", adding that the body of Roslyakov was found in the college next to a pump-action gun.
The Investigative Committee said most of the victims were teenagers. The college's website says it accepts students in the last three grades of school, from the age of 14.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, said in televised comments that a "tragic event" had happened and that "as a result of an explosion of an explosive device, people died and many are injured".
He was speaking during talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and made the statement before the Investigative Committee said the crime was a mass shooting rather than a terrorist attack.
"It's already clear that it's a crime, the motive and possible versions for this tragedy are being carefully examined," Putin said. "I want to express condolences to the relatives of the dead and express the hope that the injured recover as quickly as possible," the president said, calling for a minute's silence to mourn the victims. (With inputs from PTI and AFP)