Armed militants conducted coordinated attacks on Orthodox churches, synagogues, and a police station in Derbent and Makhachkala on Sunday, June 23, resulting in the deaths of at least seven police officers, one priest, and one civilian.

Derbent and Makhachkala are cities in Dagestan, a republic in Russia situated in the North Caucasus region.

Regional authorities report that at least 25 people have been wounded, but it is unclear in which city.

In Derbent, the militants with automatic guns at first targeted the Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary around 6 p.m. local time.

Eyewitnesses reported gunfire and smoke in the area, prompting a full alert of the Derbent police force.

A priest was killed in the attack, as reported by Shamil Khadulaev, Chairman of the Dagestan Public Monitoring Commission.

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"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 stated.

He also mentioned that a security guard at the church, armed only with a pistol, was shot. Other priests have locked themselves inside the church, awaiting help, Khadulaev added.

The attackers, armed with automatic weapons, also targeted a local synagogue in Derbent before fleeing in a white Volkswagen Polo. Video footage shows the synagogue engulfed in flames, with large plumes of smoke billowing from several windows on at least one floor.

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The Russian Jewish Congress said on its website the Derbent synagogue was attacked about 40 minutes before evening prayers.

Almost simultaneously, militants set fire to a synagogue on Yermoshkina Street in Dagestan's capital Makhachkala. Smoke was seen billowing from the building’s third floor.

Attackers also fired at a traffic police post. Video evidence depicts militants in black clothing shooting at passing police cars with machine guns.

According to the latest data from the Dagestan Interior Ministry, at least two militants were killed. Videos were posted on social media, probably with the bodies of the dead criminals.

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Telegram channels also distributed a video claiming that two more militants were detained on the Berezka beach in Makhachkala.

In response to these attacks, a counter-terrorism operation regime has been implemented in Dagestan to ensure public safety and apprehend those responsible.

Sergei Melikov, the head of Dagestan, has confirmed efforts to stabilize the situation and identify the attackers. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has opened a criminal case for a terrorist act.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Dagestan released a video showing militants shooting at police officers, with several attackers’ faces visible.

State news agency TASS cited a law enforcement source as saying the "gunmen who carried out attacks in Makhachkala and Derbent are supporters of an international terrorist organisation", without naming it.

Russia's FSB security service in April said it had arrested four people in Dagestan on suspicion of plotting the deadly attack on Moscow's Crocus City Hall concert venue in March, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.

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Militants from Dagestan are known to have travelled to join IS in Syria, and in 2015, the group declared it had established a "franchise" in the North Caucasus.

Dagestan lies east of Chechnya, where Russian authorities battled separatists in two brutal wars, first in 1994-1996 and then in 1999-2000.

Since the defeat of Chechen insurgents, Russian authorities have been locked in a simmering conflict with Islamist militants from across the North Caucasus that has killed scores of civilians and police.

 

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