At least seven people were killed and 12 injured in multiple terrorist attacks in the Russian republic of Dagestan | International

This Sunday several armed men have launched a coordinated attack against two synagogues and two Orthodox churches in the Russian region of Dagestan in the North Caucasus. According to the first information shared by the Russian Interior Ministry, at least six police officers and a priest have been killed, and another 12 people have been injured. However, it is common for the authorities not to include the dead attackers in the list of victims. The Mufti of Dagestan, the Islamic authority in the Muslim-majority region, has raised the death toll to nine, including seven officers, and the number of injured to 25. The head of the regional government, Sergei Melnikov, has promised harsh punishment for “whoever is behind these disgusting actions.”

The attackers targeted a synagogue and an Orthodox church on Ermoshkin Street in the regional capital Makhachkala. However, the militants were unable to get past a police checkpoint on the highway. Videos from the scene show a shootout with security forces.

As officials confirmed and Russian news agency TASS reported, attackers managed to attack another Orthodox church and a synagogue in the city of Derbent – home to an ancient Jewish community and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photos from the scene show the Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the synagogue on fire.

One of the victims of this latest attack was a 66-year-old priest. According to Shamil Khadulaev, chairman of Dagestan’s Public Monitoring Commission, the religious figure was beheaded by the attackers.

The Interior Ministry, quoted by local media, has assured that initially four attackers have been killed. The latest information published a few hours after the first news shows that clashes are still taking place between armed attackers and security forces. In Derbent, the police operation against several gunmen who had barricaded themselves in a building has ended with the killing of two more militants.

Russian authorities have targeted militant Muslims in previous incidents in the region. In the 2000s, Dagestan was already hit by attacks by Islamist insurgents from neighboring Chechnya. Russian security forces then moved aggressively to tackle extremists in the region. Last October, after the war broke out in Gaza, there were riots in which doors were broken down and Makhachkala airport was ransacked to search for Jewish passengers on an incoming flight from Tel Aviv.

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Russia’s FSB security service arrested four men in Dagestan in April suspected of involvement in the attack on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall last month, which killed more than 140 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group, the BBC reported. Between 2007 and 2017, a jihadist organisation called the Caucasus Emirate and later the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus carried out attacks in Dagestan and the neighbouring Russian republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria, according to the same network.

On this occasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West and Ukraine of provoking unrest within Russia. Anyway, after Sunday’s attack, an anti-terrorist alert was declared not only in Dagestan, but also in Moscow and other regions of the country. This measure implies that security forces will be able to read telecommunications and access any building without prior judicial authorization.

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