9 dead, including Orthodox priest, 25 injured after militants open fire on church, synagogues in Russia's Dagestan region

A coordinated attack on two synagogues and an Orthodox church in Russia left at least nine people dead, including seven law enforcement officers. At least 25 people were injured after militant gunmen opened fire on the houses of worship in the Dagestan region, Russian officials said.

The attack in Derbant occurred around 6 pm when multiple gunmen unleashed a barrage of bullets from automatic weapons on a synagogue and an Orthodox church. The religious houses of worship were then set on fire, according to the Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee, per ABC News.

The gunmen, who have not been identified, attacked and killed a priest and a guard at an Orthodox church in the city. The priest, Father Nikolai Kotelnikov, 66, reportedly had his throat slit by the militants. He served the city for more than 40 years, according to the Daily Mail.

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The Kele-Numaz synagogue, the only Jewish place of worship in the city, was also attacked by the gunmen. The building was then set ablaze and emergency officials are working on containing the fire.

A second attack in Makhackhala, about 75 miles away from Derbant, targeted another synagogue.

The chairman of the public council of Russia's Federation of Jewish Communities Boruch Gorin said the synagogue has "also been set on fire and burnt down." 

Gorin wrote on Telegram, per the Daily Mail, that the firefighters were ordered to abandon the synagogue in Derbent because of the risk that "terrorists remained inside."

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The gunmen also opened fire on traffic police and set a police vehicle on fire in Makhackhala. 

The suspects reportedly escaped in a white Volkswagon Polo, Russian officials said. Two of the attackers were killed by police.

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Sergei Melikov, Dagestan's Governor, said officials have not yet determined who is behind the attacks or how many people were involved.

"Tonight in Derbent and Makhackhala, unknown individuals attempted to destabilize the public situation. Dagestan police officers stood in their way. According to preliminary reports, there are casualties among them," Melikov wrote on Telegram.

Russia's Investigative Committee has started probing the massacres as "acts of terror."


Dagestan is a largely Muslim region of Russia on the Caspian Sea that borders Azerbaijan and Georgia.

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