Gunmen Kill Police, Priests In Attacks On Places Of Worship In Russia’s Dagestan

New Delhi: Gunmen opened fire on places of worship in two cities of Russia’s southernmost Dagestan province on Sunday, killing at least 15 police officers, an Orthodox priest and an unknown number of civilians, in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.

Sergey Melikov, head of the Dagestan Republic, told CNN that at least six “militants” were also killed following the attacks on churches, synagogues and police posts in the cities of Derbent and the regional capital Makhachkala, which are about 120 kilometers (75 miles) apart.

The attacks took place in the republic of Dagestan in the North Caucasus, a predominantly Muslim region on the Caspian Sea that has a history of separatist and militant violence. The turbulence in the region has been further fanned by Russia’s war in Ukraine, where ethnic minorities have been disproportionately mobilized to fight.

Video and photos showed large flames and plumes of smoke billowing heavily out of a synagogue in Derbent, while footage filmed from the window of a building in Makhachkala shows black-clad unidentified people shooting at a police car in a street. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, which come three months after ISIS affiliate ISIS-K said it carried out an assault at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow that claimed more than 140 lives in one of Russia’s deadliest terrorist atrocities in years, CNN reported.

Russian law enforcement agencies told state-run news agency TASS on Sunday that the gunmen in Dagestan were “adherents of an international terrorist organization.” The number of victims remains unclear. The Muftiyat of the Republic of Dagestan, a centralised Islamic organisation that previously reported on the casualties, has since deleted all posts associated with its count of those dead and wounded. Earlier, local authorities reported that at least nine people had been killed and 25 injured.

The Muftiyat now says “law enforcement officers, clergy, and ordinary citizens” are among the victims but does not provide specific numbers.

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