Photo credit: AP

Dagestan has declared three days of mourning following a series of attacks by gunmen on a church, synagogue, and police post that left 19 people dead and at least 12 injured. The incidents occurred in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala on Sunday, coinciding with the Russian Orthodox Church’s Pentecost festival.

The Russian Investigative Committee reported that the victims included 15 police officers and several civilians, among them an Orthodox priest. Five attackers were also killed in the clashes. Videos shared on social media depicted smoke and flames engulfing the synagogue in Derbent, a city known for its ancient Jewish community.

In addition to the synagogue in Derbent, religious sites in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, were also targeted. A police post in the city was attacked as well. The attacks have prompted criminal investigations for acts of terror, according to the Investigative Committee.

“This evening in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala, armed attacks were carried out on two Orthodox churches, a synagogue, and a police checkpoint,” the National Antiterrorism Committee stated to RIA Novosti, a state-run news agency.

The Russian Orthodox Church mourned the loss of Archpriest Nikolai Kotelnikov, who was killed in Derbent. Flags in Dagestan will be flown at half-mast during the mourning period, and cultural institutions have canceled entertainment events.

“This is a day of tragedy for Dagestan and the whole country,” said regional governor Sergei Melikov in a video statement on Telegram. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed fears of a resurgence of widespread violence in the North Caucasus, asserting that contemporary Russia is more stable and unified against such terrorist activities.

The attacks have been linked to an international terrorist organization, according to the Russian news agency TASS. Governor Melikov confirmed that the attackers were “liquidated” by Dagestani police. The identities of the gunmen are still being investigated.

This incident follows a deadly attack three months prior, where 133 people were killed at a rock concert in Moscow. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility for that attack, although Russia suggested Ukrainian involvement without providing evidence.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War noted that Al-Azaim Media, affiliated with ISKP, had praised the attackers in Dagestan but did not explicitly claim responsibility. This hints at the involvement of Wilayat Kavkaz, ISIL’s northern Caucasus branch.

Last October, Dagestan witnessed unrest when hundreds of people stormed Makhachkala airport protesting a flight from Israel, resulting in at least 60 arrests. This incident underscored the region’s complex socio-political dynamics, which continue to challenge local and national authorities.