Death toll in Russian terror attack climbs to 16 including cops and a priest 'who had his throat slit'

Wednesday, June 26, 2024 - The death toll in the Russian terror attack has climbed to 16 after gunmen attacked religious sites in southern Russia on Sunday, June 23.

The attacks unfolded in several locations in the tinderbox region of Dagestan, a largely Muslim region of Russia that borders Georgia and Azerbaijan.

A synagogue in the regional capital Makhachkala was set alight, while another group of attackers set fire to a second synagogue in Derbent, the southernmost city in Russia which lies roughly 80 miles further south.

There the gunmen also attacked an Orthodox church where they reportedly slit the throat of a priest named locally as 66-year-old Father Nikolai Kotelnikov who served more than 40 years in Derbent.

Authorities announced a counter-terrorist operation was underway in the region, although there was confusion about how many militants were involved in the attacks.

The Anti-Terrorist Committee said five gunmen were 'eliminated'. The governor said six 'bandits' had been 'liquidated'.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks as the authorities launched a criminal investigation on the charge of a terrorist act.

But Russian state news agency Tass revealed that Magomed Omarov, the head of Dagestan's Sergokalinsky district, was arrested after officers learned his son had taken part in the attacks.

The synagogue attacked and set alight by the gunmen in the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The chairman of the public council of Russia's Federation of Jewish Communities, Boruch Gorin wrote late last night that 'it has not been possible to extinguish the fire' at the synagogue.

He added: 'The synagogue in Makhachkala has also been set on fire and burnt down.'

Gorin wrote that in Derbent, firefighters had been told to leave the burning synagogue because of the risk that 'terrorists remained inside'.

In a video statement this morning, Dagestan regional governor Sergei Melikov said that the situation in the region was now under control of the law enforcement and local authorities.

He vowed that the investigation will continue until 'all the sleeping cells' of the militants are uncovered.

He claimed, without providing evidence, that the attacks might have been prepared from abroad and referenced what the Kremlin calls 'the special military operation' in Ukraine in an apparent attempt to link the attacks.

That update followed a message he shared last night in which he stated: 'Tonight in Derbent and Makhachkala, unknown individuals attempted to destabilise the public situation.

'Dagestan police officers stood in their way. According to preliminary information, there are casualties among them.'

The attacks on the religious sites across Dagestan come just months after a deadly terrorist attack in Moscow took the lives of nearly 145 people. 

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