Terror attack on places of worship in Russia’s Dagestan; priest, security personnel killed (2nd Lead)

Moscow, June 24 (IANS) Two Orthodox churches, a synagogue, and a traffic police station in Russia’s Dagestan region were attacked on Sunday, leaving a priest and around 10 security personnel, including local policemen, dead, and over two dozen injured, reports said.

The attacks took place in Makhachkala, the regional capital, as well as the city of Derbent, RT reported. Russian authorities have termed the attackers members of an “international terrorist organisation”, but did not provide any further details.

A counter-terrorism operation was launched in Dagestan in response to the attacks as firing was reported at some of the sites, some of which were in flames too.

A total of four militants have been “eliminated” by the security forces in Makhachkala, the regional Interior Ministry said. Three of them were identified as the kin of a local municipal official, Russian media said citing police sources. Two assailants were reportedly killed in Derbent.

While intense fighting was earlier reported in and around the Orthodox church in Makachkala, and local media claimed some 40 people were being held hostage inside, authorities said that the operation near the church has been completed and the people hiding inside have been taken to safety. There were no hostages, the authorities clarified.

A traffic police station in the centre of Makhachkala was also attacked, causing several casualties among police officials.

The police fatalities were reported from both Makhachkala and Derbent.

An Orthodox priest was brutally killed in the attack on the church in Derbent. The assailants reportedly broke into the church on Pentecost Sunday, immediately after the evening service and shortly before the church was closed, killing archpriest, Father Nikolay Kotelnikov, 66, by slitting his throat.

A security guard, named Mikhail, at the church, was shot by the assailants and died.

The synagogue in Derbent was also set ablaze and firefighters were called away since it was feared that attackers could still be inside as gunfire could still be heard near it then.

The attack on the police officers in Derbent was caught on video and shared on social media. Loud gunfire could be heard in the clip, with several police cars seen parked down the street, as law enforcement officers retaliated against the assailants.

However, the National Antiterrorism Committee has reported that the “active phase” of the operation in Derbent has now finished and reported two of the assailants had been killed.

Among the dead in Derbent was the police chief of the nearby town of Dagestanskiye Ogni, who was severely wounded after he and his deputies arrived there to back up the local police, as per the regional Interior Ministry.

In a related incident, a police car was fired upon in the Sergokala village, leaving an official injured, the Interior Ministry has said.

Local Muslim leaders have condemned the attacks. North Caucasus Muslim Coordination Council chief termed the assailants “brutal and hateful beasts”, while Chechen Republic chief Ramzan Kadyrov termed the attacks a “villainous provocation” aimed at sowing discord between religions.



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