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Deadly Attacks on Police, Churches, Synagogues Rock Dagestan, Russia

Violent attacks in Dagestan, Russia on police, churches, and synagogues have left many dead, including 15 officers, and a priest.

Attacks on police officers, churches, and synagogues in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan have left many people dead. 

Gunmen targeted the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala on the Orthodox festival of Pentecost, resulting in a tragic loss of life and heightened tensions in the region.

The dead include at least 15 police officers, a priest, and a security guard. Six of the attackers were killed, and police are actively hunting for others. While the assailants have not been identified, Dagestan has a history of Islamist attacks.

Two churches and two synagogues were targeted in Sunday’s attacks. An Orthodox Church priest was killed in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s largest city. The figure of 15 police officers killed was confirmed by Dagestan’s republican leader, Sergei Melikov.

Footage posted on social media shows individuals wearing dark clothes shooting at police cars before a convoy of emergency service vehicles arrived at the scene. 

In Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community, gunmen attacked a synagogue and a church, which were subsequently set on fire. 

An unofficial channel on the Telegram messaging app, Mash, reported that gunmen were barricaded in a building in Derbent.

A police vehicle was also attacked in the village of Sergokal. 

Following reports that two of his sons were among those involved in the attacks, police detained Magomed Omarov, head of the Sergokalinsky district near Makhachkala.

Dagestan, one of Russia’s poorest regions, is a predominantly Muslim republic. Between 2007 and 2017, jihadist organisations such as the Caucasus Emirate and the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus staged attacks in Dagestan and neighboring republics including Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria.

In March, following an attack on the Crocus City Hall venue near Moscow, authorities blamed Ukraine and the West, although the Islamic State group claimed responsibility. 

At that time, President Vladimir Putin insisted that “Russia cannot be the target of terrorist attacks by Islamic fundamentalists” because it “demonstrates a unique example of interfaith harmony and inter-religious and inter-ethnic unity.”

However, three months ago, Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB, reported that it had thwarted an IS plot to attack a Moscow synagogue. 

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russians have been led to believe that their principal adversaries are Ukraine and the “collective West,” a narrative Russian authorities are reluctant to change to avoid sparking public doubts.

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