At least 9 killed after firing at church, police post in Russia's Dagestan | World News - Hindustan Times

At least 9 killed after firing at church, police post in Russia's Dagestan

Jun 24, 2024 05:05 AM IST

Restive Dagestan was in the 2000s hit by an Islamist insurgency spilling over from neighbouring Chechnya.

Gunmen in Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday launched attacks on religious buildings, killing at least seven police officers, a national guard officer and a priest, officials said.

The agencies reported exchanges of gunfire in the centre of Makhachkala, a region with a long coastline on the Caspian Sea.
The agencies reported exchanges of gunfire in the centre of Makhachkala, a region with a long coastline on the Caspian Sea.

The attacks took place in Dagestan's largest city of Makhachkala and in the coastal city of Derbent, where gunfights were ongoing Sunday evening.

Russia's Investigative Committee said it had opened criminal probes over "acts of terror" in Dagestan, a largely Muslim region of Russia neighbouring Chechnya.

Dagestan's interior ministry said police had killed four of the gunmen in Makhachkala.

"This evening in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala armed attacks were carried out on two Orthodox churches, a synagogue and a police checkpoint," the National Antiterrorism Committee said in a statement to RIA Novosti news agency.

"As a result of the terrorist attacks, according to preliminary information, a priest from the Russian Orthodox Church and police officers were killed."

In all, six officers were killed and another 12 wounded in the attacks, the spokeswoman for Dagestan's interior ministry, Gayana Gariyeva, told RIA Novosti.

The ministry later said a local police chief had died from his wounds.

Russia's National Guard meanwhile said one of its officers had been killed in Derbent and several others wounded.

In what appeared to be a new attack, the Dagestan interior ministry later said that in a village 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Makhachkala, called Sergokal, attackers had shot at a police car, wounding one officer.

The ministry spokesman also said a 66-year-old Orthodox priest was killed in Derbent.

- Synagogues on fire -

Dagestan's RGVK broadcaster named the priest as Nikolai Kotelnikov, saying he had served more than 40 years in Derbent.

Sunday is a religious holiday, Pentecost Sunday, in the Russian Orthodox Church.

"The synagogue in Derbent is on fire," the chairman of the public council of Russia's Federation of Jewish Communities, Boruch Gorin, wrote on Telegram.

"It has not been possible to extinguish the fire. Two are killed: a policeman and a security guard."

"The synagogue in Makhachkala has also been set on fire and burnt down," he said, adding that in Derbent, firefighters had been told to leave the burning synagogue over the risk that "terrorists remained inside".

"There is shooting in the streets around the synagogue,"he said.

The leader of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, wrote on Telegram: "This evening in Derbent and Makhachkala unknown (attackers) made attempts to destabilise the situation in society.

"They were confronted by Dagestani police officers."

State news agency TASS cited a law enforcement source as saying the "gunmen who carried out attacks in Makhachkala and Derbent are supporters of an international terrorist organisation", without naming it.

Russia's FSB security service in April said it had arrested four people in Dagestan on suspicion of plotting the deadly attack on Moscow's Crocus City Hall concert venue in March, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Militants from Dagestan are known to have travelled to join IS in Syria, and in 2015, the group declared it had established a "franchise" in the North Caucasus.

Dagestan lies east of Chechnya, where Russian authorities battled separatists in two brutal wars, first in 1994-1996 and then in 1999-2000.

Since the defeat of Chechen insurgents, Russian authorities have been locked in a simmering conflict with Islamist militants from across the North Caucasus that has killed scores of civilians and police.

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