Shooting in Russia′s Dagestan kills five churchgoers | News | DW | 18.02.2018
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Shooting in Russia's Dagestan kills five churchgoers

A gunman has killed five people as they left a church in Russia's restive Dagestan region. The "Islamic State" group has clamed responsibility for the attack.

Five people were killed and five others injured after a man in Dagestan shot into a crowd leaving a church on Sunday, the local health ministry said.

Dagestan, a Muslim-majority region in southern Russia, has been plagued in recent years by violence between Islamic radicals and security forces.

Read more: Munich Security Conference: How to stop a post-caliphate jihad?

What we know so far

  • The church goers were celebrating Maslenitsa — an Eastern Slavic holiday that marks the impending end of winter and the start of Lent for Russian Orthodox Christian — in Kizlyar, a village in northwestern Dagestan.
  • The TASS news agency reported that the assailant was a 22-year-old local to the region, who died after being shot by police. His motive is not yet known.
  • All five victims were women, TASS reported citing the local branch of the interior ministry. The Interfax news agency said those injured include two members of local security forces and two civilians.
  • The "Islamic State" (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but has not provided immediate evidence for the claim.
Watch video 00:54

Deadly church shooting in Russia

'A monstrous crime'

"We had finished the mass and were beginning to leave the church. A bearded man ran towards the church shouting 'Allahu Akbar' ('God is greatest') and killed four people," Orthodox priest Father Pavel told Russian daily RBK. "He was carrying a rifle and a knife," he added.

A spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill called the attack a "monstrous crime" aimed at "provoking a confrontation between Orthodox Christians and Muslims" in the North Caucasus.

Where is Dagestan? Dagestan borders Chechnya in the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia. Moscow has led two wars against separatists and radical religious groups since the Soviet collapse in 1991.

How active are IS in Dagestan? In 2015, IS declared it had established a "franchise" in the North Caucasus. It has claimed a number of attacks on police in Dagestan in the last couple of years. A large number of people from the region have joined IS as fighters. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, lived for a brief time in Dagestan. 

Watch video 04:43

A former 'Islamic State' militant returns to Russia

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dv/aw (dpa, Reuters)