KAZAN, Russia -- Nine victims from an attack on a school in the capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan have been buried as investigators search for answers as to why a teenager went on a deadly shooting spree.
The victims were buried on May 12 in cemeteries in Kazan and several other districts in Tatarstan in accordance with Islamic traditions as the republic holds a day of mourning following the tragedy a day earlier that also injured more than 20 people, most of whom were students at School No. 175.
Four boys and three girls, all eighth-graders, died in the attack, as well as a teacher and another school employee.
Around 100 people, some of them wearing face masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, gathered at a traditional Muslim funeral for Elvira Ignatieva, an English teacher who was among the victims.
"My niece was like a shining star: she took off, lit up, and faded away," her aunt Anna Ignatieva told AFP, crying and wearing a black scarf.
"She was protecting her children ... She was protecting (them) and didn't hide away," Talgat Gumerov, a Kazan resident told Reuters.
Amir Shaikhutdinov, a 14-year-old student killed in the attack, was also buried.
“Thanks to all of you and from the town for all of the support…Without it I would not have been able to cope,” his father, Fanil Shaikhutdinov, said in comments reported by RFE/RL.
A 19-year-old man, identified by local media as Ilnaz Galyaviyev, was arrested on suspicion of setting off an explosion in the school before opening fire on students as they scurried to flee the building, some jumping from third-floor windows to escape the carnage.
According to Interfax, Galyaviyev was enrolled at a nearby business school, the Tatarstan University of Management, but was expelled one month ago for poor academic performance.
The Russia-born founder of encrypted messenger Telegram, Pavel Durov, said on May 12 that his team had "acted quickly" to block Galyaviyev's account, one hour after receiving initial complaints over his channel.
Durov said Galyaviyev announced his plans in a private Telegram channel, where he was the only member, just minutes before the attack.
"Fifteen minutes before the attack, the shooter made the channel public, apparently intending to leave it as a death note," Durov said.
The region's commissioner for children’s rights, Irina Volynets, was quoted by the state TASS news agency as saying on May 12 that the motive for the attack is still not known.
"He did not come into the spotlight of any law enforcement agency: his family [was not monitored] as a dysfunctional family, the shooter himself [had] no police record and was not registered with the commission on juvenile affairs," Volynets said.
"One thing is clear -- the family evoked no suspicions in anyone. At his place of study, he was described as an even-tempered, polite, and neatly dressed young man, an ordinary student.... Rumors that he committed this crime out of revenge, to punish someone...appear groundless because he came to this school four years after graduation," she added.
Within hours of the incident, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow, about 700 kilometers west of Kazan, that President Vladimir Putin had immediately ordered the head of the Russian National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, "to hammer out new regulations on the types of weapons which are designated for civilian use, and which weapons may be in the possession of citizens, including the types of small arms the gunman used in this shooting."
The school, located on Dzhaudat Faizi Street, has more than 1,000 students.
The alleged gunman was issued a permit for a Hatsan Escort PS shotgun on April 28, Aleksandr Khinshtein, a lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, wrote on social media. Khinstein also said that the school had no security aside from a panic button.
Despite being on the rise, attacks at schools in Russia and other former Soviet republics remain uncommon and the shooting sent shockwaves across the country.
Tatarstan's Deputy Prime Minister Leila Fazleyeva told reporters that in all 23 people were injured in the shooting spree.
Mikhail Pospelov, a doctor at the Children's Hospital in Kazan, said on May 12 that 20 of the injured people are children, of whom six, including one in an "extremely serious" condition, are currently being treated in an intensive care unit.
Pospelov also said that surgeries had been performed on all of the children. The injuries treated included gunshot wounds and fractured bones suffered as the students jumped out of the school’s windows while being hit by bullets shot by the attacker.
Five children will be transported to hospitals in Moscow for treatment, he added.