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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Deadly attacks in Dagestan: 20 killed in coordinated assaults

Russian news agency TASS reported that at least 46 people were injured in the attacks, with several police officers in grave condition.

The southern Russian region of Dagestan is observing three days of mourning following a series of coordinated attacks on Christian and Jewish places of worship that left 20 people dead, including 15 police officers. The attacks, which occurred on Sunday in the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent, also resulted in the deaths of at least five militants. The violence is the deadliest in Russia since a March attack at a Moscow concert hall claimed 145 lives.

Coordinated Assaults on Religious Sites

The assaults targeted an Orthodox church and a synagogue in Derbent, where gunmen killed the Rev. Nikolai Kotelnikov, a 66-year-old Russian Orthodox priest. His church was set ablaze. Concurrently, attackers set fire to the Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent. In Makhachkala, militants fired at a police post and attacked another Orthodox church and synagogue before being killed by special forces. These assaults came as Orthodox Christians celebrated Pentecost, exacerbating the community’s distress.

Read More: Orthodox priest brutally murdered in southern Russia

Claims of Responsibility and Speculations

No group has officially claimed responsibility for the Dagestan attacks. However, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War suggested that the Islamic State group’s North Caucasus branch, Vilayat Kavkaz, might be behind the assault, describing it as “complex and coordinated.” This follows the pattern of the March attack in Moscow, for which an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan had claimed responsibility.

Dagestan Governor Sergei Melikov attributed the violence to Islamic “sleeper cells” potentially directed from abroad but did not provide detailed evidence. President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov have also been briefed on the situation, with the Kremlin drawing tenuous links to Ukraine without substantial proof, a claim Ukraine has vehemently denied.

Local and International Reactions

The aftermath of the attacks has seen strong reactions both locally and internationally. Melikov announced that three days of mourning would be observed in Dagestan, with state flags lowered to half-staff and financial assistance promised to the families of the victims. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and conveyed his condolences.

Investigation and Aftermath

The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a terror investigation into the attacks. Local law enforcement agencies have identified some of the attackers, including relatives of Magomed Omarov, head of Dagestan’s Sergokala district, who was detained for interrogation. The attackers reportedly included Omarov’s two sons and a nephew.

Read More: Defeating Russia impossible – Putin

Russian news agency TASS reported that at least 46 people were injured in the attacks, with several police officers in grave condition. The violent events have revived memories of the early 2000s, when Dagestan experienced frequent militant attacks. Although violence had decreased in recent years, this incident highlights the persistent extremist threat in the region.