Operation against Dagestan attackers over: Russian anti-terror agency

AFP , Monday 24 Jun 2024

An operation against gunmen who attacked churches and a synagogue in Russia's Muslim-dominated Dagestan region and killed at least 16 people is over, the national anti-terrorism agency said Monday.

FSB officers conduct a counter-terrorist operation in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia.
FSB officers conduct a counter-terrorist operation in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia. AP


The attacks took place on a religious holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church, Pentecost Sunday.

"Following the neutralisation of the threats to the lives and health of citizens, it was decided to end the anti-terrorist operation in Dagestan from 0515 GMT," the National Antiterrorism Committee said, according to Russian news agencies.

The attacks were launched place in the Dagestan capital Makhachkala and nearby Derbent.

"Over 15 police fell victim to the terrorist act," Dagestan's regional leader Sergei Melikov said in a video posted on Telegram, adding that they "protected civilians... at the cost of their lives".

He said several civilians were also killed.

The initial death toll given was eight police officers and a priest.

The attacks targeted "two Orthodox churches, a synagogue and a police checkpoint", the National Antiterrorism Committee had earlier said.

The Russian Orthodox Church said archpriest Nikolai Kotelnikov was "brutally killed" in Derbent. He was 66.

State news agency TASS had earlier 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 the Islamic State group claimed.

Militants from Dagestan are known to have travelled to join IS in Syria, and 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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