THIS screengrab from officially released footage shows Dagestan region governor Sergei Melikov (third from right) inspecting the synagogue which came under attack, on Monday.—AFP
THIS screengrab from officially released footage shows Dagestan region governor Sergei Melikov (third from right) inspecting the synagogue which came under attack, on Monday.—AFP

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Monday dismissed fears Russia’s historically restive North Caucasus region faces a wave of violence after a series of coordinated weekend attacks on churches, synagogues and police killed at least 20 in the southern Dagestan region.

The attacks on Sunday came just three months after the militant Islamic State (IS) group fighters killed more than 140 in a Moscow concert hall, the deadliest attack on Russia for almost 20 years.

Moscow said on Monday it had concluded an “anti-terrorist operation” and killed five of the assailants behind the attacks in the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent.

The incidents had echoes of the kind of insurgent violence that struck the North Caucasus during the 1990s and 2000s, but the Kremlin on Monday dismissed fears of a renewed wave of attacks.

Governor calls attacks a bid to ‘destabilise’ region; health ministry says of the 26 injured, some are in serious condition

At least 20 people were killed and another 26 injured in the attacks, Dagestan’s regional health ministry said.

Fifteen of those killed were law enforcement officers, according to Russia’s federal Investigative Committee.

“In the course of suppressing the criminal actions, five people involved in committing the crime were liquidated,” the Investigative Committee said.

It was unclear how many had taken part in the attacks, and investigators said they were still working to “identify other persons involved”.

The attackers had targeted two Orthodox churches, two synagogues and a police checkpoint in the regional capital Makhachkala and Derbent, a historic city on the coast of the Caspian Sea.

Asked whether Moscow feared a possible return of such violence, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “No. Now there is a different Russia. Society is consolidated and such terrorist manifestations are not supported by society in Russia or in Dagestan.”

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had launched criminal probes into “acts of terror”, while Dagestan Governor Sergei Melikov called the attacks an attempt to “destabilise” his region.

“We know who is behind these terrorist attacks and what objective they are pursuing,” he added, without providing specific details but making references to the conflict in Ukraine.

“We must understand that war comes to our homes too. We felt it but today we face it,” he said, adding that authorities were hunting for “sleeper cells” that had trained the attackers with assistance from abroad.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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