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Priest and six law enforcement officers killed in attacks on synagogues and church in Russia’s Dagestan

Six law enforcement officers and a priest have reportedly been killed in what appear to be coordinated attacks by gunmen in Russia’s southernmost Dagestan province.

Attacks have been reported in a church and a synagogue in the city of Derbent and at a synagogue and police traffic stop in the city of Makhachkala. Regional authorities say 12 law enforcement officers have also been wounded, though it is unclear in which city. The two cities are about 120km (75 miles) apart.

Two “militants” have also been killed following the attacks, the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported on Sunday, citing Dagestan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

A priest was killed in the attack on the church in Derbent, according to the Dagestan Public Monitoring Commission Chairman, Shamil Khadulaev.

“According to the information I received, Father Nikolay was killed in the church in Derbent, they slit his throat. He was 66-years-old and very ill,” Khadulaev said.

He also said a security guard at the church armed with only a pistol was shot. Additional priests have locked themselves in the church and are waiting for help, Khadulaev said.

Meanwhile, the synagogue in Derbent was set on fire with photos showing large flames and plumes of smoke billowing heavily out of a series of windows on at least one floor of the structure.

In what appears to be coordinated attacks that took place around the same time as those in Derbent, a synagogue and a police traffic post in Makhachkala also came under fire.

The Israeli foreign ministry described what it said was “a combined attack” on the two synagogues.

“The synagogue in Derbent was set on fire and burned to the ground. Local guards were killed. The synagogue in Makhachkala was attacked by gunfire, there are no further details,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“As far as is known, there were no worshipers in the synagogues at the time of the attack, and there are no known casualties from the Jewish community,” according to the statement.

The head of the Dagestan Republic, Sergey Melikov, has issued a message on Telegram saying that “unknown persons made attempts to destabilize the social situation. Dagestan police officers stood in their way. According to preliminary information, there are victims among them.”

Melikov said the identities of the attackers are being established, an operational headquarters has been set up and a plan for a counteroperation “Interception” is underway.

He urged the public to remain calm, saying “Panic and fear are what they were counting on in … They won’t get this from Dagestanis!”

The Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Republic of Dagestan said it had launched a terror investigation into the attacks under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

“All the circumstances of the incident and the persons involved in the terrorist attacks are being established, and their actions will be given a legal assessment,” the investigative directorate statement reads.

This is a developing story. More to come.

This post appeared first on cnn.com
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