Terrorists Target Houses of Worship in Muslim-Majority Russian Region

By Hamodia Staff

Smoke rises following an attack at a synagogue in Derbent of the Republic of Dagestan, Russia, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Golos Dagestana via AP)

More than 15 police officers and several civilians, including a priest, were killed by terrorists 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 synagogues and two Orthodox churches, as well as a police post in two cities, according to the authorities.

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee described the attacks in the predominantly Muslim region as terrorist acts.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were declared days of mourning in the region.

Dagestan’s Interior Ministry said a group of armed men shot at a synagogue and a church in the city of Derbent, located on the Caspian Sea. Both the church and the synagogue caught fire, according to state media. Almost simultaneously, reports appeared about an attack on a church, a synagogue and a traffic police post in the Dagestan capital, Makhachkala. The synagogues were empty during the attack, according to reports, but one was destroyed.

Authorities announced a counter-terrorist operation in the region. The Anti-Terrorist Committee said five gunmen were eliminated. The governor said six were killed. The conflicting numbers couldn’t be immediately reconciled and it wasn’t clear how many terrorists were involved in the attacks.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. The authorities launched a criminal investigation on the charge of a terrorist act.

Russian state news agency Tass cited law enforcement sources as saying that a Dagestani official was detained over his sons’ involvement in the attacks.

Melikov said in the video statement that the situation in the region was under control of the law enforcement and local authorities, and vowed that the investigation of the attacks will continue until “all the sleeping cells” of the terrorists are uncovered.

He said that the attacks might have been prepared from abroad.

In March, gunmen opened fire on a crowd at a concert hall in suburban Moscow, killing 145 people. An affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, but Russian officials also sought to link Ukraine to the attack without providing any evidence. Kyiv has vehemently denied any involvement.

With reporting from wire services.

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