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Russia Attack: More Than A Dozen Killed In Church, Synagogue Attack In Dagestan

At least 19 people including policemen have died after gunmen opened fire in two cities in Dagestan. A gun battle was seen on the streets of Makhachkala on Sunday as gunmen dressed in black opened fire at a police patrol party on the street.

In the same region, in Derbent, located on the Caspian Sea in Southern Russia, a church and synagogue came under attack.

The Governor of Dagestan called it a terrorist attack. Taking to his Telegram channel, Governor of Dagestan Sergei Melikov said, “Today has become a day of tragedy for Dagestan. And not only for Dagestan, but for our entire country. Unprecedented in their cruelty, terrorist attacks were committed today against religious sites in the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala, and our ancient city of Derbent.”

Melikov also said the attacks were an attempt to destabilise the region, which is a Muslim-majority province and he said the law would go after sleeper cells of such terror groups.

In the 2000s, the region was hit by Islamist insurgency that spread from neighbouring Chechnya. Russia’s FSB had said it had tackled most of the insurgency by 2017.

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Dagestan has declared three days of state mourning. Besides multiple law enforcement officers, an Orthodox priest was also killed when gunmen opened fire. The exact number of civilian casualties is still not clear.

Derbent is home to an ancient Jewish community. Members of the community have said that the synagogue was set on fire and has burned down. The synagogue is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

According to the Russian state news agencies, 5 of the gunmen who were responsible for the attack have been killed. Police have blocked off city exits to prevent suspected attackers from trying to flee.

Russia’s state media claimed that two sons of the head of central Dagestan’s Sergokala district, who had been detained by investigators, were among the attackers.

The simultaneous attacks across the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent come just three months after 145 people were killed in an attack at a concert hall near Moscow. It was the worst terrorist attack that Russia had seen in years. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.