In the Russian Caucasus, deadly attacks hit places of worship

In the Russian Caucasus, deadly attacks hit places of worship
In the Russian Caucasus, deadly attacks hit places of worship

The leader of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, said on Sunday evening that “unknown persons had tried to destabilize society”. “We know who is behind these terrorist attacks and what objective they are pursuing,” he added later, without specifying who was in the sights but referring to the war in Ukraine. “We must understand that war comes to our homes too. We felt it, but today we face it.”

Also read: “Relations between Russia and Israel have never been so bad”

He added that “the active phase” of operations in Derbent and Makhachkala “has ended” and “six bandits have been liquidated.” The authorities will try to find “all the members of these sleeper cells who prepared (the attacks) and who were prepared, including abroad,” he added.

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and fervent supporter of the Kremlin, assured that the “enemy” sought to destroy “inter-religious peace” in Russia. Its goal is to “plant the seeds of hatred”, he denounced, without naming those responsible.

A priest and six police officers killed

Sunday’s attacks targeted “two Orthodox churches, a synagogue and a police checkpoint,” announced the Russian Anti-Terrorism Committee, cited by the Ria Novosti agency. Jewish representatives, including the Russian Jewish Congress, said a second synagogue was also burned.

A 66-year-old priest of the Russian Orthodox Church was killed in Derbent, according to authorities. Six police officers were killed and thirteen others injured, according to the Dagestan Interior Ministry. Authorities later said a National Guard officer also died, and another police officer succumbed to his injuries.

Nine deaths in total, even if the authorities have not communicated an overall toll. In total, sixteen people, including thirteen police officers, were injured and hospitalized, according to the ministry.

Armed individuals also opened fire on a vehicle carrying police officers, injuring one of them, in Sergokala, a village located between Makhachkala and Derbent, the local Interior Ministry further clarified to Russian agencies.

Three days of mourning have been declared in Dagestan, from Monday to Wednesday, the local administration said.

Synagogues in Derbent and Makhachkala were burned, according to the chairman of the public council of Jewish communities of the Russian Federation, Boruch Gorin. Images, reported by Russian media, showed a burning building, presented as a synagogue. In other videos, gunshots could be heard in the streets of Makhachkala, where a large police force was deployed. The authenticity of these images could not immediately be verified by AFP.

Russia targeted by ISIS

In October, riots hostile to Israel broke out at Makhachkala airport. A crowd of men had invaded its tarmac, amid tensions across the world linked to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, when a plane from Israel landed.

Read also: Among the Jews of Dagestan, after the anti-Semitic riots, “a feeling of betrayal”

Russia has been targeted on multiple occasions by attacks and attacks claimed by the jihadist organization Islamic State (IS), even if its influence remains limited in the country.

In March, an attack claimed by ISIS at Crocus City Hall, a concert hall in the Moscow suburbs, killed more than 140 people.

Last weekend, several ISIS members were killed after taking two prison officers hostage in a prison in southern Russia, authorities said.

Russia faced an Islamist rebellion in the early 2000s in the Caucasus, a movement born from the first conflict against separatist Chechnya in 1994-1996. It had been defeated by Russian federal forces and in recent years, armed incidents there have been rare. Nearly 4,500 Russians, particularly from the Caucasus, fought alongside IS in Iraq and Syria, according to official figures.

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