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Russia: At Least 15 killed in Synagogue, Church Attacks in Dagestan

In a series of brutal attacks in Russia’s Dagestan region on Sunday, June 23, 2024, at least 15 people including police officers and a priest were killed. These attacks was targeted on churches, synagogues and police posts.

Russia: At Least 15 killed in Synagogue, Church Attacks in Dagestan

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The attacks took place on June 23, 2024, in Derbent and Makhachkala, two major cities in Dagestan. The assailants targeted synagogues, Orthodox churches and a police checkpoint.

The attacks coincided with the Russian Orthodox Church’s celebration of Pentecost, a religious festival.

At least 15 police and National Guard officers, several civilians and an Orthodox priest were killed. Approximately 12 people were injured in the attacks.

The synagogue, home to an ancient Jewish community was attacked and set on fire just 40 minutes before evening prayers. Thick smoke and flames filled the skies of Derbent.

The capital city saw attacks on multiple places of worship and a police post. Gunmen were seen on the streets, dressed in black, firing at police cars and setting buildings on fire. An Orthodox Church priest was killed in one of these attacks.

The Russian Investigative Committee launched criminal investigations into the incidents labeling them as acts of terrorism. The head of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov confirmed that six attackers had been liquidated.

The attackers are believed to be members of an “international terrorist organization.” The exact identities of the attackers are still under investigation, but there are indications of connections to the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) and other extremist groups.

The attacks occurred in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala, which are approximately 120 kilometers apart.

Derbent witnessed the horrific murder of Father Nikolay, an elderly and ailing priest, whose throat was slit by the attackers.

The Svyato-Uspenskiy Sobor, a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Makhachkala, was the site of a standoff where a security guard was killed and 19 individuals sought refuge before being safely evacuated.

At least 15 individuals lost their lives including law enforcement officers, clergy members and civilians. Specific casualties included Mavludin Khidirnabiev, head of the Dagestan Lights police department. A security guard at the Svyato-Uspenskiy Sobor in Makhachkala was among those killed.

The attackers were described as adherents of an international terrorist organization, though no specific group had claimed responsibility as of the report.

Authorities reported that six of the attackers were killed during the confrontations with four in Makhachkala and two in Derbent.

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Law enforcement launched a counter-operation and a terror investigation was initiated under the Russian Criminal Code.

Two synagogues, one in Derbent and one in Makhachkala were attacked. The synagogue in Derbent was set on fire using Molotov cocktails.

The synagogue in Makhachkala was attacked with gunfire, but there were no casualties among worshipers as the premises were unoccupied at the time. Local guards was tasked with protecting these religious sites, were among those killed.

Dagestan is a Muslim region with small Christian and Jewish minorities. It has a history of Islamist insurgency that spilled over from neighboring Chechnya during the 2000s, though such attacks had become less frequent in years.

The region has been under high security following an attack in Moscow claimed by ISIS-K that resulted in over 140 deaths.

Sergey Melikov condemned the attacks and addressed the resolve of the Dagestani people to not succumb to panic and fear.

The Muftiyat of the Republic of Dagestan reported on the casualties but later deleted their posts. The Russian Jewish Congress pledged to assist in the restoration of synagogues and provide support to the victims’ families.

Melikov linked the attacks to geopolitical tensions, implicitly referencing the Russia-Ukraine war and suggesting the violence was an attempt to destabilize the region.

He declared three days of mourning in Dagestan with flags at half-mast and all entertainment events canceled. The Investigative Committee of Russia began criminal probes into the attacks, classifying them as acts of terror.

The attack comes just three months after a deadly assault on a concert hall in Moscow by ISKP militants. Russian security forces arrested several individuals in Dagestan suspected of planning terrorist activities.

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