Written by 4:43 am In the News

Dagestan death toll rises

The death toll from a series of brazen attacks on churches and synagogues in Russia rose to 20, after gunmen went on the rampage in coordinated attacks in two of the republic’s most important cities.

Gunmen opened fire on places of worship in two cities of Russia’s southernmost Dagestan province on Sunday, killing at least 15 police officers and four civilians, including an Orthodox priest, in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.

Gunmen with automatic weapons burst into an Orthodox church and a synagogue in the ancient city of Derbent, setting fire to an icon at the church and killing a 66-year-old Orthodox priest, Nikolai Kotelnikov.

In the city of Makhachkala, about 125 km (75 miles) north on the Caspian Sea shore, attackers shot at a traffic police post and attacked a church.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, which come three months after ISIS affiliate ISIS-K said it carried out an assault at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow that claimed more than 140 lives in one of Russia’s deadliest terrorist atrocities in years.

Four civilians were killed in the attacks, Russia’s investigative committee said on Monday,

At least five attackers were killed, some were shown by local media shot dead on a pavement.

Russian law enforcement agencies told state-run news agency TASS on Sunday that the gunmen in Dagestan were “adherents of an international terrorist organisation.”

“This is a day of tragedy for Dagestan and the whole country,” said Sergei Melikov, the head of the Dagestan region, who on Monday visited the synagogue and church that were attacked in Derbent.
He said that foreign forces had been involved in preparing the attack, but gave no details.
“This is an attempt to cleave apart our unity.”

Three days of mourning have been declared in Dagestan following the deadly shootings, with state flags lowered to half-staff, Melikov said. Financial assistance will also be given to families of the victims, according to TASS.

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