Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5 Die in Gang Gun Battle Near Kremlin

Five people have been killed in a shootout and grenade attack within sight of the Kremlin, Itar-Tass said Monday.

Police and witnesses said the attack began at about 5 P. M. Friday when several men leaped from a BMW and began firing into the ground floor office of a three-story building under repair at 15 Ulitsa Dmitrova.

The gunmen's getaway was foiled, however, when a grenade exploded beneath their car, according to an account in the newspaper Commersant Daily.

Three people were shot dead inside the office, belonging to a commercial company, while the fourth, a driver, was killed outside. All four were visitors to the company, Itar-Tass said.

Police searching the site of the crime later found the body of a man who had been strangled, the news agency said.

Police declined to identify the victims, speculate about a motive, or say whether any arrests had been made.

Itar-Tass, however, said the deaths were probably linked to a debt of $100, 000 that the company had run up.

The grenade explosion, four blocks from the Kremlin, shattered about a dozen windows both at the scene of the crime and in a nearby building. The targeted offices were not in use, but were undergoing restoration when the attack occurred.

"Repairs are underway on both sides of the building, so it's obvious there is no business going on here", said one policeman at the scene. "What happened here is not clear".

On Monday police at the scene towed away several automobiles that they said belonged to people involved in the incident, among them were two BMW cars found abandoned, Itar-Tass said.

One witness said Monday that the killing bore the classic fingerprints of a mafia-style hit, which often aims at intimidating business. He said the office was being renovated for an import-export trading firm.

Friday's killings were sufficiently serious for the chief of Moscow's homicide department, Viktor Golovanov, to take over the investigation Monday.

Although many murders are left to local precincts to solve, Golovanov, the city's top homicide officer, was leading a team of at least four other investigators on the case during a visit to the 2nd Police Precinct.

The incident is one of a series of violent, mob-style killings this year that have contributed to the capital's highest murder rate on record, up 61 percent over the rate in 1992, police say. In July alone, 102 people were murdered in Moscow, with arrests made in only 43 cases, according to police statistics.

In the last three weeks, gunmen have killed the Russian partner of the Tren-Mos restaurants, the assistant director of Cafe Aist, workers in the Alliance car dealership, and the owner of the Valeriya Casino. At least 13 deaths have been attributed to gangland-style killings over this period.

In addition, businessmen from Sweden and Britain have been killed.

The growing violence is not limited to Moscow. Up to six people were killed and another 18 wounded after an attacker threw a grenade into a bazaar in the Far Eastern fishing town of Nakhodka on Sunday, Interfax reported.