Attack in Dagestan: At least 19 killed in coordinated assaults on religious sites

For several hours, the assailants engaged in shootouts with law enforcement before five of them were eventually killed, according to local officials.

At least 15 law enforcement officers and four civilians were killed in two seemingly coordinated attacks in Russia’s southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday night. Russian investigators have designated the incidents as acts of terrorism.

The attacks, which targeted synagogues and Orthodox churches in two major Dagestani cities, were carried out by gunmen wielding rifles and Molotov cocktails. Among the civilian casualties was Nikolai Kotelnikov, a priest in the town of Derbent, where attackers also set fire to a synagogue.

For several hours, the assailants engaged in shootouts with law enforcement before five of them were eventually killed, according to local officials. The region’s interior ministry reported that the gunmen were on the loose during this time, creating a state of terror and confusion.

In response to the tragedy, local authorities have declared a three-day mourning period in Dagestan, a region known for its religious and ethnic diversity. Families of the victims are set to receive special compensation.

While the Kremlin has acknowledged the attacks, with spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov stating that President Vladimir V. Putin is receiving regular updates, no presidential address has been announced to the nation. Peskov declined to comment on the attackers’ motives.

This incident is the latest in a series of extremist acts of violence in Russia in recent months. It follows the March attack on a Moscow concert hall that claimed 145 lives, claimed by the Islamic State, and last October’s mob storming a plane arriving from Tel Aviv in Dagestan.

Sergei Melikov, Dagestan’s top official, hinted at external involvement without providing evidence, drawing parallels between the attack’s victims and Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. The Kremlin spokesman appeared to suggest a connection between the Dagestan violence and a separate Ukrainian attack on occupied Crimea, though he stopped short of directly accusing Ukraine or the West.

As investigations continue, Russia’s antiterrorism committee has announced that law enforcement is actively searching for accomplices to the attack. The incident underscores the complex security challenges facing Russia, particularly as it remains engaged in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.