Priest, 6 Officers Killed in Shootings at Synagogue, Church, Police Post in Russia: Officials

By Reuters
June 23, 2024World News
Priest, 6 Officers Killed in Shootings at Synagogue, Church, Police Post in Russia: Officials
Plumes of smoke rise from a building in Derbent, Russia, on June 23, 2024, in a still from video. (Video Obtained By Reuters/via Reuters)

MOSCOW—Gunmen opened fire at a synagogue, an Orthodox church, and a police post in simultaneous attacks across two cities in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday, killing at least six policemen and injuring 12, Russian news agencies quoted the interior ministry as saying.

The attack comes three months after 145 people were killed in an attack claimed by the ISIS terrorist group on a concert hall near Moscow, Russia’s worst terrorist attack in years.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in the volatile North Caucasus region. State news agency TASS cited law enforcement as saying that among the attackers had been two sons of the head of central Dagestan’s Sergokala district, who it said had been detained by investigators as a result.

A local religious organization in mainly Muslim Dagestan put the death toll at nine, including seven police officers.

The Interior ministry, quoted by Russian news agencies, said four gunmen had been shot dead as the incidents unfolded. A local official said another had been killed during a shootout at a church in Dagestan’s capital of Makhachkala, where an Orthodox priest was also killed.

Restive Dagestan was in the 2000s hit by an Islamist insurgency spilling over from neighboring Chechnya, with Russian security forces moving aggressively to combat extremists in the region.

In recent years, attacks had become rarer, with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) saying it in 2017 that it had defeated the insurgency in the region.

The agencies reported exchanges of gunfire in the center of Makhachkala. They cited the interior ministry as saying that exits from the Caspian Sea port of around 600,000 had been closed, and that conspirators who were still at large may yet attempt to flee the city.

About 125 kilometers (75 miles) south of Makhachkala, gunmen attacked a synagogue and a church in Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Authorities were quoted as saying that both the synagogue and church were ablaze, and that two attackers had been killed.

The head of Dagestan’s regional government vowed stiff punishment for “whichever forces lies behind these disgusting actions.” Russian media cited the head of the country’s federation of Jewish communities as calling for people to avoid reacting to “provocations.”

In Israel, the Foreign Ministry said the synagogue in Derbent had been burned to the ground and shots had been fired at a second synagogue in Makhachkala. The statement said it was believed there were no worshippers in the synagogue at the time.