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Synagogue, church attacks in Russia’s Dagestan kill police | News

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Gunmen shot at a synagogue and church in Derbent, as well as a police post in Makhachkala.

Gunmen have killed at least five police officers during what appear to be coordinated attacks on a synagogue, an Orthodox church and a police post in the Russian republic of Dagestan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Dagestan has said.

Nine people were wounded in the attacks, which took place in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala on Sunday evening.

Both the synagogue and the church are located in Derbent, which is home to ancient Jewish community in the mainly-Muslim North Caucasus region. The police post attack took place in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, approximately 125 kilometres (75 miles away).

The synagogue in Derbent was set on fire as a result of the attack, local officials told the Reuters news agency, while eyewitnesses also reported that smoke was rising from the church.

Two of the attackers have been shot dead, according to Russian news agencies quoting the country’s interior ministry.

The attackers in Derbent had earlier been seen fleeing in a car.

“Tonight in Derbent and Makhachkala unknown people made attempts to destablise the public situation,” said the Head of the Republic of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov. “Dagestan police officers stood in their way. According to preliminary information, there are casualties among them. All services are acting in accordance with the instruction … The identities of the attackers are being established.”

Daniel Hawkins, reporting for Al Jazeera from Moscow, said that there have also been reports that a priest in the church was killed.

Dagestan has previously seen separatist violence in the 1990s and early 2000s, Hawkins explained.

“Violence there, as the years have gone on, has died down,” Hawkins said, explaining that the region never saw the kind of conflict that engulfed the neighbouring Russian republic of Chechyna, which saw Russian forces and separatists fight two brutal wars during the same period.

“This sort of attack that’s coordinated and has targeted civilian religious infrastructure is very unusual and will no doubt be shocking to Russians across the country,” Hawkins added.

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