Russia: Churches And Synagogue Resulted In 20 Deaths, With At Least 46 People Hospitalized

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Russia: Attacks On Police Posts, Churches, And A Synagogue Resulted In 20 Deaths, With At Least 46 People Hospitalized

Three days of mourning have been declared in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in southern Russia bordering Chechnya.

The apparently coordinated attacks targeted the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala during the Orthodox festival of Pentecost, resulting in the death of an Orthodox priest among others. The priest, Father Nikolai Kotelnikov, had served in Derbent for more than 40 years.

Russian media reported that around 18:00 (15:00 GMT) local time on Sunday, gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on an Orthodox church and a synagogue in Derbent, which has an ancient Jewish community.

The gunmen then retreated into a nearby building, where they were later killed by police. The Kele-Numaz synagogue was severely damaged by fire.

At the same time, in Makhachkala, two gunmen attacked an Orthodox church, attempting to set fire to its main icon before opening fire, according to Izvestia newspaper.

Videos on social media showed heavy shooting outside the church, with gunmen dressed in black targeting passing police cars. A police post near the Makhachkala synagogue was also attacked.

All exits from the city were closed for a time as the interior ministry indicated that the militants’ accomplices might be attempting to escape. In the nearby village of Sergokala, a police officer was injured when a police car was attacked a few hours later.

The head of the republic of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, later stated that at least 15 police officers had been killed. Dagestan has previously been the scene of Islamist attacks.

Although the assailants have not been officially identified, Russian media widely reported that two of the gunmen were sons of Magomed Omarov, the head of the Sergokala district, who has been detained by police. In a video posted on Telegram, Mr. Melikov suggested that Ukraine had been involved in the attack, indicating that Dagestan was now directly involved in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The war is coming to our homes,” Mr Melikov said. “We understand who is behind the organisation of the terrorist attacks and what goal they pursued,” he said.

On Monday, Mr. Melikov stated that authorities were continuing to search for members of “sleeper cells” who had planned the attacks, possibly with assistance from abroad.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian State Duma’s international affairs committee, echoed these claims, suggesting that the Dagestan attacks and a missile strike that killed four in Russian-occupied Sevastopol on Sunday “could not be a coincidence.”

“These tragic events, I am sure, were orchestrated from abroad and are aimed at sowing panic and dividing the Russian people,” Mr Slutsky said.

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