60 dead, 145 injured in Moscow concert hall attack; Daesh claims responsibility

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Smoke rises above the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a reported shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia, March 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Ambulances and vehicles of Russian emergency services are parked outside the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident, outside Moscow, Russia, March 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Russia’s foreign ministry called the incident a “terrorist attack” that had to be condemned. (AFP)
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Russia’s foreign ministry called the incident a “terrorist attack” that had to be condemned. (AFP)
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Smoke rises above the burning Crocus City Hall concert venue following a reported shooting incident, on the outskirts of Moscow on Mar. 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 March 2024

60 dead, 145 injured in Moscow concert hall attack; Daesh claims responsibility

  • Russian authorities said a hunt had been launched for the attackers
  • Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry issues condemnation of attack

MOSCOW: At least sixty people have been killed after gunmen stormed a concert hall near Moscow on Friday in one of the deadliest attacks on Russia in decades.

Gunmen opened fire at a rock concert leaving dead and wounded before a major fire spread through the theater, Moscow’s mayor and Russian news agencies reported.

Authorities said a hunt had been launched for the attackers and that a “terrorism” investigation had been launched.

Attackers dressed in camouflaged outfits entered the building, opened fire and threw a grenade or incendiary bomb, according to a journalist for the RIA Novosti news agency who was at the scene.

Russian authorities said 145 people were injured in the incident that took place in Crocus City Hall.

The attack has been widely condemned.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had been informed minutes after the assailants went into the large music venue which can accommodate 6,200 people.

“The president is constantly supplied by all relevant services with information about what is happening and the measures being taken,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

US intelligence confirmed a claim by Daesh that it was behind the attack, but a spokesman for investigators said that it was too early to make an assessment on who was behind the incident.

But a source close to the Russian probe told Arab News that investigators are inclined to exclude versions of Ukraine and Daesh involvement.

However, a number of leading Russian experts believe that the terrorist attack is the work of the Ukrainian special services. In their view, without the help of Western intelligence agencies, it is unlikely that Ukrainians would have been able to plan and carry out this attack.

The US presidency called the attack “terrible” but said there was no immediate indication of any link to the war in Ukraine.

A US intelligence official told The Associated Press that US intelligence agencies had learned Daesh’s branch in Afghanistan was planning an attack in Moscow and shared the information with Russian officials.

On March 7, the US Embassy in Moscow said it was “monitoring reports that extremists are planning to attack large gatherings” of people in the Russian capital, “including concerts”.

Putin denounced the Western warnings as an attempt to intimidate Russians. “All that resembles open blackmail and an attempt to frighten and destabilize our society,” he said earlier this week.

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin confirmed there were deaths in what he called a “terrible tragedy” at the concert by Russian rock band Piknik.

“I offer my condolences to the families of the dead,” said Moscow’s mayor as a major security operation was launched around the theater and nearby shopping mall.

Sobyanin said he had canceled all public events in Moscow for the weekend.

Russia’s foreign ministry labeled the incident a “terrorist attack” that had to be condemned.

Fire quickly spread through the Crocus City Hall, north of the Russian capital, where the theater can hold several thousand people and has staged several concerts by top international artists, according to the reports.

Automatic gunfire was used on the audience, the RIA Novosti journalist reported.

“People who were in the hall were led on the ground to protect themselves from the shooting for 15 or 20 minutes,” the journalist was quoted as saying.

People started crawling out when it was safe, the journalist reported, adding that security forces were at the scene.

About 100 people escaped through the theater basement while others were sheltering on the the roof, the emergency services ministry said on its Telegram channel.

Telegram news channels Baza and Mash, which are close to security forces, showed video images of flames and black smoke pouring from the concert hall.


Other images showed two men walking through the hall with at least one person left on the ground near the entrance.

Spectators were also seen hiding behind seats or trying to escape.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it had been a “terrorist attack.”

“The whole international community must condemn this odious crime,” she said on Telegram.

The Ministry of Education recommended that all educational institutions in the capital region announce unscheduled holidays in the coming days.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Friday condemning the attack.

TASS news agency said that SOBR and special police forces and the OMON anti-riot squad had been sent to the Crocus hall.
It added that all the members of the rock band had been evacuated safely.

Orthodox church leader Patriarch Kirill was “praying for peace for the souls of the dead,” said his spokesman Vladimir Legoyda.

— With input from Reuters, AP, AFP


The FBI said they were investigating it as a potential act of domestic terrorism

Updated 4 sec ago

The FBI said they were investigating it as a potential act of domestic terrorism

  • The FBI said they were investigating it as a potential act of domestic terrorism
  • But the absence of a clear ideological motive by the man shot dead by Secret Service led conspiracy theories to flourish

WASHINGTON: The 20-year-old man who tried to assassinate former President Donald Trump first came to law enforcement’s attention at Saturday’s rally when spectators noticed him acting strangely outside the campaign event. The tip sparked a frantic search but officers were unable to find him before he managed to get on a roof, where he opened fire.
In the wake of the shooting that killed one spectator, investigators were hunting for any clues about what may have drove Thomas Matthew Crooks, of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, to carry out the shocking attack. The FBI said they were investigating it as a potential act of domestic terrorism, but the absence of a clear ideological motive by the man shot dead by Secret Service led conspiracy theories to flourish.
“I urge everyone — everyone, please, don’t make assumptions about his motives or his affiliations,” President Joe Biden said in remarks Sunday from the White House. “Let the FBI do their job, and their partner agencies do their job. I’ve instructed that this investigation be thorough and swift.”
The FBI said it believes Crooks, who had bomb-making materials in the car he drove to the rally, acted alone. Investigators have found no threatening comments on social media accounts or ideological positions that could help explain what led him to target Trump before Secret Service rushed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee off the stage, his face smeared with blood.
Trump said on social media the upper part of his right ear was pierced in the shooting, but advisers said he was “great spirits” ahead of his arrival Sunday in Milwaukee for the Republican National Convention. Two spectators were critically injured, while a former fire chief from the area, Corey Comperatore was killed. Pennsylvania’s governor said Comperatore, 50, died a hero by diving onto his family to protect them.
Relatives of Crooks didn’t respond to numerous messages from The Associated Press. His father, Matthew Crooks, told CNN late Saturday that he was trying to figure out “what the hell is going on” but wouldn’t speak about his son until after he talked to law enforcement. An FBI official told reporters that Crooks’ family is cooperating with investigators.
Several rallygoers reported to local officers that Crooks was acting suspiciously and pacing near the magnetometers, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation. Officers were then told Crooks was climbing a ladder, the official said. Officers searched for him but were unable to find him before he made it to the roof, the official added.
Butler County Sheriff Michael Slupe told the AP that a local officer climbed to the roof and encountered Crooks, who saw the officer and turned toward him just before the officer dropped down to safety. Slupe said the officer couldn’t have wielded his own gun under the circumstances. The officer retreated down the ladder, and Crooks quickly took a shot toward Trump, and that’s when Secret Service snipers shot him, according to two officials who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

FBI officials said Sunday that they were combing Crooks’ background and social media activities while working to get access to his phone. The chatting app Discord, a social media platform popular with people playing online games, said Crooks appears to have had an account but used it rarely and not in the last several months. There’s no evidence he used his account to promote violence or discuss his political views, a Discord spokesperson said.
Crooks’ political leanings were not immediately clear. Records show Crooks was registered as a Republican voter in Pennsylvania, but federal campaign finance reports also show he gave $15 to a progressive political action committee on Jan. 20, 2021, the day Biden was sworn into office.
Crooks graduated from Bethel Park High School in 2022. In a video of the school’s graduation ceremony posted online, Crooks can be seen crossing the stage to receive his diploma, appearing slight of build and wearing glasses. The school district said it will cooperate fully with investigators. His senior year, Crooks was among several students given an award for math and science, according to a Tribune-Review story at the time.
Crooks tried out for the school’s rifle team but was turned away because he was a bad shooter, said Frederick Mach, a current captain of the team who was a few years behind Crooks at the school.
Jason Kohler, who said he attended the same high school but did not share any classes with Crooks, said Crooks was bullied at school and sat alone at lunch time. Other students mocked him for the clothes he wore, which included hunting outfits, Kohler said.
“He was bullied almost every day,” Kohler told reporters. “He was just a outcast, and you know how kids are nowadays.”
Crooks worked at a nursing home as a dietary aide, a job that generally involves food preparation. Marcie Grimm, the administrator of Bethel Park Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, said in a statement she was “shocked and saddened to learn of his involvement.” Grimm added that Crooks had a clean background check when he was hired.
A blockade had been set up Sunday preventing traffic near Crooks’ house, which is in an enclave of modest brick houses in the hills outside Pittsburgh and about an hour’s drive from the site of the Trump rally. Police cars were stationed at an intersection near the house and officers were seen walking through the neighborhood.
Crooks used an AR-style rifle, which authorities said they believe was purchased by his father. Kevin Rojek, FBI special agent in charge in Pittsburgh, said that investigators do not yet know if he took the gun without his father’s permission.
A video posted to social media and geolocated by AP shows Crooks wearing a gray t-shirt with a black American flag on the right arm lying motionless on the roof of a manufacturing plant just north of the Butler Farm Show grounds where Trump’s rally was held.
The roof where Crooks lay was less than 150 meters (164 yards) from where Trump was speaking, a distance from which a decent marksman could reasonably hit a human-sized target. That is a distance at which US Army recruits must hit a scaled human-sized silhouette to qualify with the M-16 rifle.
Images of Crooks’ body reviewed by AP show he appears to have been wearing a T-shirt from Demolition Ranch, a popular YouTube channel that regularly posts videos of its creator firing off handguns and assault rifles at targets that include human mannequins.
Matt Carriker, the Texas-based creator of Demolition Ranch, did not respond to a phone message or email on Sunday, but posted a photo of Crooks’ bloody corpse wearing his brand’s T-shirt on social media with the comment “What the hell.”


In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’

Updated 1 min 20 sec ago

In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’

  • Political passions can run high but “we must never descend into violence,” he said
  • Saturday’s attack upended the Democratic counteroffensive on the cusp of the Republican convention

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden warned Sunday of the the risks of political violence in the US after Saturday’s attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, saying, “It’s time to cool it down.”
In a prime-time national address from the Oval Office, Biden said political passions can run high but “we must never descend into violence.”
“There is no place in America for this kind of violence — for any violence. Ever. Period. No exception. We can’t allow this violence to be normalized,” Biden said.
Biden spoke for about five minutes from the Oval Office. He noted that the Republican National Convention was opening in Milwaukee on Monday, while he himself would be traveling the country to campaign for reelection.
He said passions would run high on both sides and the stakes of the election were enormous.
“We can do this,” Biden implored, saying the nation was founded on a democracy that gave reason and balance a chance to prevail over brute force. “American democracy — where arguments are made in good faith. American democracy — where the rule of law is respected. Where decency, dignity, fair play aren’t just quaint notions, they’re living, breathing realities.”


Earlier Sunday, Biden condemned the attempted assassination of his predecessor, Trump, as “contrary to everything we stand for as a nation” and said he was ordering an independent security review of how such an attack could have happened.
He called for the country to “unite as one nation,” promised a “thorough and swift” review and asked the public not to “make assumptions” about the shooter’s motives or affiliations.
The president said he has also directed the US Secret Service to review all security measures for the RNC. Hours later, Audrey Gibson-Cicchino, the Secret Service’s coordinator for the convention, said the weekend attack against Trump did not prompt any changes to the agency’s security plan for the event and officials “are fully prepared.”
In his remarks, Biden called the attack on Trump “not who we are as a nation.”
“It’s not American. And we cannot allow this to happen,” he said. “Unity is the most elusive goal of all, but nothing is more important than that right now.”
The president said he and first lady Jill Biden were praying for the family of Corey Comperatore, a former fire chief who was shot and killed during the Trump rally Saturday night in Butler, Pennsylvania.
“He was protecting his family from the bullets,” Biden said. “God love him.”
The president also said he’d had a “short but good conversation” with Trump in the hours after the shootings and said he was “sincerely grateful” that the former president is “doing well and recovering.”
Trump, who has called for national resilience since the shooting, posted on his social media account after Biden’s remarks, “UNITE AMERICA!”
Actually achieving unity will be far more challenging, especially in the midst of a bitter presidential campaign. Biden’s team is grappling with how to calibrate the path forward after the weekend attack on the very person he is trying to defeat in November’s election.
Biden, who has set out to brand Trump as a dire threat to democracy and the nation’s very founding principles, put a temporary pause on such political messaging. Shortly after Saturday night’s attack, Biden’s reelection campaign froze “all outbound communications” and was working to pull down its television ads.
The president also postponed a planned trip to Texas on Monday, where he was to speak on the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library. An NBC News interview between Biden and anchor Lester Holt will now occur at the White House, instead of in Texas, as initially planned.
Biden’s campaign said that, after the NBC interview airs on Monday night, it and the Democratic National Committee “will continue drawing the contrast” with Trump over the course of the GOP convention — even though it remains unclear when ads would resume.
Biden also still plans to make a planned trip to Las Vegas, which will include a campaign event Wednesday. Vice President Kamala Harris postponed her planned campaign trip to Florida on Tuesday, where she had been set to meet with Republican women.
Trump, meanwhile, announced he was moving up plans to go to Milwaukee and the Republican convention, where criticism of Biden and the Democrats is sure to be searing.
The weekend developments were only the latest upheaval in a campaign that has been extraordinarily topsy-turvy in recent weeks.
Biden’s shaky debate performance on June 27 so spooked his own party that some top surrogates and donors turned on him, and nearly 20 Democratic members of Congress called on the president to leave the race outright. Facing mounting questions about whether he was fit for a second term, Biden and his top advisers have been scrambling to salvage his campaign by adding events around the country and more aggressively criticizing Trump.
Saturday’s attack upended — at least for now — that counteroffensive on the cusp of the Republican convention.
The campaign also hopes that Sunday’s Oval Office address lets Biden further drive home his point about unity while demonstrating leadership that could assuage nervous critics within his own party.
“We’ll debate and we’ll disagree, that’s not going to change,” Biden said in his afternoon remarks. “But we’ll not lose sight of who we are as Americans.”
Although investigators are still in the early stages of determining what occurred and why, some Biden critics are calling out the president for telling donors in a private call Monday that “it’s time to put Trump in the bullseye.”
A person familiar with those remarks said the president was trying to make the point that Trump had gotten away with a light public schedule after last month’s debate while the president himself faced intense scrutiny. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to more freely discuss private conversations.
In the donor call, Biden said: “I have one job and that’s to beat Donald Trump. ... I’m absolutely certain I’m the best person to be able to do that.”
He continued: “So, we’re done talking about the debate. It’s time to put Trump in the bullseye. He’s gotten away with doing nothing for the last 10 days except ride around in his golf cart, bragging about scores he didn’t score. … Anyway I won’t get into his golf game.”

Republicans, in wake of Trump shooting, seek to pin political violence trend on Democrats

Updated 18 min 18 sec ago

Republicans, in wake of Trump shooting, seek to pin political violence trend on Democrats

  • “For weeks Democrat leaders have been fueling ludicrous hysteria that Donald Trump winning re-election would be the end of democracy in America,” Republican Rep. Steve Scalize wrote on X
  • A researcher on political violence said it's Trump's right-wing supporters who had been deploying violent language, including threats aimed at election workers, judges and other officials
  • Trump previously had not ruled out the possibility of political violence if he loses November’s election. “If we don’t win, you know, it depends,” he told TIME magazine in April

WASHINGTON: Within hours of the assassination attempt on former US President Donald Trump, many of his supporters began laying blame on Democrats, seeking to flip the script on who has stoked America’s heated political rhetoric as cases of political violence reach historic heights.
From establishment Republicans to far-right conspiracy theorists, a consistent message emerged that President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders laid the groundwork for Saturday’s shooting by casting Trump as an autocrat who poses a grave threat to democracy.
A Reuters analysis of more than 200 incidents of politically motivated violence between 2021 and 2023, however, presented a different picture: In those years, fatal political violence more often emanated from the American right than from the left.
The US is embroiled in the most sustained spate of political violence since a decade of upheaval that began in the late 1960s, Reuters found in that report published last year. That violence has come from across the ideological spectrum, and includes extensive attacks on property during left-wing political demonstrations. But attacks on people — from beatings to killings — were perpetrated mostly by suspects acting in service of right-wing political beliefs and ideology.
Almost immediately after Saturday’s attack, right-wing websites were brimming with assertions that left-wing rhetoric motivated Trump’s assailant. Many commentators blamed the shooting on the Biden White House or pushed unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, including a claim that a shadowy “deep state” cabal within the government orchestrated it.
“Do not think this is going to be the last attempt to kill Trump. The Deep State really has no other choice now,” said a user on the pro-Trump website Patriots.Win. “It’s going to take borderline martial law to set the country right,” wrote another. One user called for a federal government purge. “It’s us or them.”
Trump’s Republican backers pointed specifically to a comment Biden made on July 8 as the president discussed his dismal debate performance in a meeting with donors.
“I have one job and that’s to beat Donald Trump,” Biden said, according to a transcript of the call that Biden’s campaign forwarded to reporters. “We’re done talking about the debate. It’s time to put Trump in the bullseye. He’s gotten away with doing nothing for the last 10 days except ride around in his golf cart.”
Some Republican officeholders seized on the “bullseye” comment as an example of Biden invoking violent imagery in describing November’s presidential election and criticized Biden and other Democrats for casting the former president as a threat to Democracy and to the nation.
“For weeks Democrat leaders have been fueling ludicrous hysteria that Donald Trump winning re-election would be the end of democracy in America,” US Representative Steve Scalize, a Louisiana Republican, wrote on X. “Clearly we’ve seen far left lunatics act on violent rhetoric in the past. This incendiary rhetoric must stop.”
Scalize himself was the victim of violence seven years ago, wounded by a left-wing gunman who opened fire during a practice of the congressional Republican baseball team.
Other Republican politicians added to the drumbeat.
“Joe Biden sent the orders,” US Representative Mike Collins, a Republican from Georgia, posted on X on Saturday. There is no evidence for that claim. “The Republican District Attorney in Butler County, PA, should immediately file charges against Joseph R. Biden for inciting an assassination.”

“False equivalence”
Kurt Braddock, an assistant professor of public communication at American University who researches political violence, said Biden’s criticisms of Trump as a threat to the nation aren’t the same as the violent language deployed by right-wing supporters of Trump. “It’s a little bit of a false equivalence,” Braddock said.
Trump supporters have led an increase in threats and harassing communications aimed at election workers, judges and other officials.
After Trump lost the 2020 election, Reuters documented hundreds of threats to local election officials by Trump supporters enraged by his false claims that the election was rigged. A Reuters investigation published in May found thatviolent threats against judgeshandling Trump’s various criminal and civil trials spiked after the former president criticized those judges in speeches or social-media posts.
Before the shooting, Trump had not ruled out the possibility of political violence if he loses November’s election. “If we don’t win, you know, it depends,” he said when asked by TIME magazine in April if he expected violence after the 2024 election. He’s also refused to unconditionally accept the results of the upcoming election and warned of a “bloodbath” if he loses.
A Reuters review of dozens of Trump’s campaign speeches – particularly those from 2020 and 2024 – found that violence was a recurring theme. He has exhorted rallygoers “to take back our country,” repeatedly praised the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters and compared himself to famed mobster Al Capone. While president, he encouraged police to be rough with people they were arresting and threatened to use the US military to quell protests.
Biden, who has repeatedly condemned political violence, offered another denunciation immediately after the attack on Trump.
“There is no place in America for this kind of violence or any violence for that matter. An assassination attempt is contrary to everything we stand for ... as a nation — everything,” Biden said in a televised address. “We’ll debate and we’ll disagree. That’s not going to change. But we’re not going to lose sight of who we are as Americans.”
Trump struck a defiant tone initially. In the moments after the shooting at his rally in Pennsylvania, he pumped his fist at the crowd and shouted, “Fight! Fight!” On Sunday, however, he called for national unity.
“In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand United,” Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social network.
That message was reinforced by his campaign in memo to staff urging calm. “It is our fervent hope that this horrendous act will bring our team, and indeed the nation, together in unity and we must renew our commitment to safety and peace for our country,” said the internal campaign memo, seen by Reuters.
Some pro-Trump commentators predicted more violence ahead. “They will stop at nothing unless America stands up to them,” said a commentator on Rumble, a video-sharing site that attracts right-wing users, referring to Democrats. “Violence is going to happen. Here is the civil war.”
A senior member of the Proud Boys, the violent all-male extremist group that led the pro-Trump storming of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, said the group would show up at the Republican National Convention, which kicks off in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Monday. After the shooting of Trump, “you’ll see us at more events,” the Proud Boy told Reuters. “It’s going to be more active. It’s that simple.”
Megan McBride, an expert in domestic violent extremism, said US leaders have a brief window to cool partisan hatred before a retaliatory cycle emerges. Research shows that support for political violence increases when people believe the other side supports it, said McBride, a senior research scientist with the Institute for Public Research at CNA, a nonprofit that studies security issues.
“There’s nothing inevitable about a progression from the threat of violence to violence itself,” she said. “That’s a really fantastic opportunity for the country to kind of bring the temperature down a little bit.”
The shooter’s politics and motive remain unclear. The suspect, 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks, was killed at the scene by Secret Service agents. Crooks was a registered Republican who would have been eligible to cast his first presidential vote in the Nov. 5 election. His father, Matthew Crooks, 53, told CNN he was trying to learn what happened and would wait until he had talked to law enforcement before speaking about his son.

BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad

Updated 1 min 53 sec ago

BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad

  • Thomas Crooks graduated in 2022 from Bethel Park High School

Thomas Crooks, the suspect in Saturday’s attempted assassination of former US President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, briefly appeared in an advertisement for BlackRock, the company said on Sunday.
“In 2022, we ran an ad featuring a teacher from Bethel Park High School, in which several unpaid students briefly appeared in the background, including Thomas Matthew Crooks,” the world’s biggest asset manager said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Thomas Crooks graduated in 2022 from Bethel Park High School, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
BlackRock said it will make all video footage available to the appropriate authorities and has removed the video from circulation.
“The assassination attempt on former President Trump is abhorrent,” the company said.
BlackRock will release its second-quarter results on Monday.

UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall

Updated 15 July 2024

UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall

  • “The latest trends demonstrate that many countries continue to miss far too many children,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russell said in a joint statement

GENEVA: Global childhood vaccination levels have stalled, leaving millions more children un- or under-vaccinated than before the pandemic, the UN said Monday, warning of dangerous coverage gaps enabling outbreaks of diseases like measles.
In 2023, 84 percent of children, or 108 million, received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), with the third dose serving as a key marker for global immunization coverage, according to data published by the UN health and children’s agencies.
That was the same percentage as a year earlier, meaning that modest progress seen in 2022 after the steep drop during the Covid-19 crisis has “stalled,” the organizations warned. The rate was 86 percent in 2019 before the pandemic.
“The latest trends demonstrate that many countries continue to miss far too many children,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russell said in a joint statement.
In fact, 2.7 million additional children remained un- or under-vaccinated last year compared to the pre-pandemic levels in 2019, the organizations found.

“We are off track,” World Health Organization vaccine chief Kate O’Brien told reporters.
“Global immunization coverage has yet to fully recover from the historic backsliding that we saw during the course of the pandemic.”
Not only has progress stalled, but the number of so-called zero-dose children, who have not received a single jab, rose to 14.5 million last year from 13.9 million in 2022 and from 12.8 million in 2019, according to the data published Monday.
“This puts the lives of the most vulnerable children at risk,” O’Brien warned.
Even more concerning is that more than half of the world’s unvaccinated children live in 31 countries with fragile, conflict-affected settings, where they are especially vulnerable to contracting preventable diseases, due to lacking access to security, nutrition and health services.
Children in such countries are also far more likely to miss out on the necessary follow-up jabs.
A full 6.5 million children worldwide did not complete their third dose of the DTP vaccine, which is necessary to achieve disease protection in infancy and early childhood, Monday’s datasets showed.

The WHO and UNICEF voiced additional concern over lagging vaccination against measles — one of the world’s most infectious diseases — amid an exploding number of outbreaks around the world.
“Measles outbreaks are the canary in the coalmine, exposing and exploiting gaps in immunization and hitting the most vulnerable first,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.
In 2023, only 83 percent of children worldwide received their first dose of the measles vaccine through routine health services — the same level as in 2022 but down from 86 percent before the pandemic.
And only 74 percent received their second necessary dose, while 95-percent coverage is needed to prevent outbreaks, the organizations pointed out.
“This is still too low to prevent outbreaks and achieve elimination goals,” Ephrem Lemango, UNICEF immunization chief, told reporters.
He pointed out that more than 300,000 measles cases were confirmed in 2023 — nearly three times as many as a year earlier.
And a full 103 countries have suffered outbreaks in the past five years, with low vaccination coverage of 80 percent or lower seen as a major factor.
By contrast, 91 countries with strong measles vaccine coverage experienced no outbreaks.
“Alarmingly, nearly three in four infants live in places at the greatest risk of measles outbreaks,” Lemango said, pointing out that 10 crisis-wracked countries, including Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, account for more than half of children not vaccinated against measles.
On a more positive note, strong increases were seen in vaccination against the cervical cancer-causing HPV virus.
But that vaccine is still only reaching 56 percent of adolescent girls in high-income countries and 23 percent in lower-income countries — far below the 90-percent-target.