Gunmen attack synagogues and churches in the Russian Republic

Gunmen attacked synagogues and churches in two cities in southern Russia on Sunday, killing several police officers and a priest, in an apparently coordinated attack. , shows Russia’s vulnerability to extremist violence.

Officials said six gunmen were killed after gunfights in the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent, in the Muslim-majority Dagestan region on the Caspian Sea. According to authorities and religious organizations, wielding rifles and Molotov cocktails, they attacked a synagogue and a church in two cities.

Sergei Melikov, the governor of Dagestan, described the attack as the latest attack “on our fraternity, on our multi-ethnic unity”.

The exact death toll was not immediately clear. Mr. Melikov said that “more than 15 policemen became victims of today’s terrorist attack” without specifying how many of them were killed and how many were injured.

The gunmen’s motives and identities are also unclear and no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Russia’s Investigative Committee, an agency similar to the FBI, said it had begun a terrorism investigation.

The attack is the latest outbreak of extremist violence in Russia as it battles against neighboring Ukraine. Four gunmen killed 145 people at a concert hall in Moscow in March in an attack for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility. And in Dagestan last October, an anti-Semitic mob stormed a plane arriving from Tel Aviv.

In Derbent, attackers set fire to a synagogue after shooting dead police officers guarding it, the Russian Jewish Congress said. According to a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, they also killed a priest, Nikolai Kotelnikov. The priest was the only confirmed victim in Sunday’s attack who was not a law enforcement officer, although Melikov said “several” civilians were killed.

At the same time, early Sunday evening, gunmen also opened fire on a traffic police station in Makhachkala, according to state media. According to state media, the attackers’ targets also included Makhachkala’s Assumption Cathedral and a synagogue, according to the Russian Jewish Congress.

Video posted of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Dagestan showed gunmen hiding in the city of Makhachkala, opening fire and forcing people out of their cars. At one point, police said roads leading out of the city were blocked. It was not yet clear whether any gunmen were still at large, although Melikov said the “active phase” of the police response had ended.

The turmoil highlights long-running ethnic and religious tensions in Russia, especially in the country’s southern Caucasus region, including Dagestan. Patriarch Kirill I, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said it was “no coincidence” that the attack took place on the day Orthodox Christians celebrate Pentecost.

“We see that the enemy does not give up in its efforts to destroy peace and inter-religious harmony in our society,” Kirill said in a statement.

It is not known exactly who the enemy is. There was no comment from the Kremlin and authorities said little about the identities of the attackers. state media reported said some of the gunmen may be the sons of a local official.

After the March shooting at a Moscow concert hall – the deadliest terrorist attack in Russia in 20 years – Russian officials repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that Ukraine and the West were behind it. after the violence, although the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the incident.

On Sunday, some Russian politicians also pointed fingers at the West without evidence. Leonid Slutsky, a senior lawmaker, claimed that the attacks had the “aim of sowing panic and division among the Russian people” and that “the blood of the victims” had also fallen on the hands of the United States.

According to community leaders, the attacks are the latest incidents to rattle Russia’s Jewish community, which has faced increasing threats since the start of the war in Russia. Gaza. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had been in contact with Jewish community leaders in Dagestan and that there were no known casualties in that community.


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