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Factbox-What is known about the attacks in Russia’s Dagestan?

By Thomson Reuters Jun 24, 2024 | 1:58 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) – An Orthodox priest and several police officers were killed in multiple attacks in the Russian region of Dagestan on Sunday.

What do we know?

THE ATTACKS

– Just before 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) on Sunday, gunmen with automatic weapons attacked an Orthodox church and a synagogue in Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the interior ministry said.

– Russian media carried footage of the synagogue on fire. Izvestia newspaper said two gunmen ran into the Orthodox church, tried to set fire to its main icon and then opened fire.

– At the same time, gunmen also attacked a traffic police post in the local capital of Makhachkala, about 125 km (75 miles) north of Derbent, the ministry said.

– Gun battles ensued between law enforcement agencies and the attackers. There was heavy shooting around the Assumption Cathedral in Makhachkala and reports of gunfire on a beach. Repeated automatic gunfire rang out across both cities.

– A counter-terrorism regime that allows authorities greater powers to clamp down on people’s movement and communications was declared in the region overnight before being lifted early Monday.

THE VICTIMS

Sergei Melikov, the head of the Dagestan region, said more than 15 policemen had been killed as well several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, Nikolai Kotelnikov, who had worked for more than 40 years at the church in Derbent.

Izvestia said he was killed in front of family members. He was the only confirmed casualty of the attacks.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, called for resistance to any attempts to radicalise religion.

“I am convinced that it is necessary to do everything possible to exclude the very possibility of attempts to radicalize religious life, to stop any manifestations of extremism and interethnic hostility in any form,” Kirill said.

“The present and future of our country largely depends on this,” he said.

THE ATTACKERS

Six attackers were killed, Melikov said. Russian Telegram channels showed young men in pools of blood on the street who those posting the images said were the attackers.

Russia’s state media cited law enforcement as saying that among the attackers had been two sons of the head of central Dagestan’s Sergokala district, and that they had been detained by investigators. Another of the attackers was his nephew.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“We understand who is behind the organisation of the terrorist attacks and what goal they pursued,” Melikov said, adding that foreign forces had been involved in preparing the attack. “This is an attempt to cleave apart our unity.”

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Christopher Cushing)