Dagestan in grief for 20 victims of church attack

Dagestan in grief for 20 victims of church attack
Inspection. In this photo taken from video released by The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia on Monday, June 24, 2024, the head of Dagestan Republic Sergei Melikov (center) visits the damaged Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. More than 15 police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia’s southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. The gunmen opened fire on two Orthodox churches, a synagogue and a police post in two cities, according to the authorities. Associated Press

MOSCOW — Russia’s southern region of Dagestan held the first of three days of mourning Monday following an attack by Islamic militants who authorities say killed 20 people, mostly police, and attacked Christian and Jewish houses of worship in assaults in two cities.

Sunday’s violence in Dagestan’s regional capital of Makhachkala and nearby Derbent was the latest that officials blamed on Islamic extremists in the predominantly Muslim region in the North Caucasus. It was also the deadliest in Russia since March, when gunmen opened fire at a concert in suburban Moscow, killing 145 people.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan had claimed responsibility for March’s raid and quickly praised the attack in Dagestan, saying it was conducted by “brothers in the Caucasus who showed that they are still strong.”

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War argued that the Islamic State group’s North Caucasus branch, Vilayat Kavkaz, likely was behind the attack, describing it as “complex and coordinated.” Dagestan Gov. Sergei Melikov blamed members of Islamic “sleeper cells” directed from abroad, but didn’t give any other details. He said in a video statement that the assailants aimed at “sowing panic and fear,” and attempted to link the attack to Moscow’s military action in Ukraine — but also provided no evidence. / AP

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