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Gunmen opened fire on two synagogues, two Orthodox churches and a police post in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation opened a terrorism investigation in response to the “armed attacks in Derbent and Makhachkala, as a result of which police officers and civilians were killed and injured,” according to the agency’s Telegram page. 

Shamil Khadulaev, chairman of the Public Monitoring Commission of Dagestan, said a 66-year-old priest was found with his throat slashed at an Orthodox church, the state-sponsored TASS news agency reported. 

At least two police officers were also killed, news agencies quoted the Russian Interior Ministry as saying, according to Reuters. At least six people were wounded. 

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fires in russian synagogue attacks

Assailants set fire to synagogues and churches in Russia’s Dagestan province. (East2West)

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement, confirming a “combined attack in two cities in Dagestan province, Makhachkala and Derbent.”

“The synagogue in Derbent was set on fire and burned to the ground. Local guards were killed. The synagogue in Makhachkala was attacked by gunfire, there are no further details,” the statement said. “At the same time, churches were attacked in Makhachkala and a priest was murdered in Derbent.” 

“As far as is known, there were no worshipers in the synagogues at the time of the attack and there are no known casualties from among the Jewish community,” it added. “The Israeli embassy in Moscow is in contact with the leaders of the Jewish community in the district.”

russia derbent shooting

A map showing the city of Derbent in Russia.  (Fox News)

Videos circulated online showing buildings set on fire and gunmen engaging in shootouts with police. 

Citing unspecified reports, Reuters said one officer was killed when shots were fired at a synagogue in Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community in the North Caucasus. 

Gunfire was also reportedly exchanged in an Orthodox church in the town that is a UNESCO heritage site. Another shootout was reported at a police post in Makhachkala, about 75 miles to the north along the Caspian Sea coast and the main city in Dagestan, a mainly Muslim region in southern Russia, according to Reuters. 

Sergei Melikov, Vladimir Putin’s appointed head of Dagestan, said “unknown persons” in Derbent and Makhachkala attempted to “destabilize the social situation,” Russian news agency RIA reported. 

The attacks were not immediately attributed to a specific group. 

gunmen in russian attacks

Gunmen reportedly engaged in a shootout with police in Russia’s Dagestan province. (East2West)

They come, however, amid concern about the rise of Islamic militants, specifically the ISIS-K group, in the region. 

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FBI Director Christopher Wray warned earlier this month of a heightened terror threat following the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, coupled with the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas terrorists, warning of “the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, not unlike the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russian concert hall back in March.” 

On March 22, Moscow’s Crocus City concert hall was attacked by terrorists, leaving more than 140 people dead and over 180 wounded. The gunmen who conducted the attack were identified by Russian media as Tajikistan nationals. After walking in with automatic weapons, the terrorists indiscriminately opened fire on the 6,200-seat venue.

smoke at russia attack site

Smoke is seen after gunmen reportedly attacked synagogues and churches in the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent in Russia’s Dagestan province. (East2West)

Images from the scene showed a massive fire raging at the concert venue. 

Sunday’s reports of attacks in Russia come the same day U.S. second gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro were among the dignitaries marking the groundbreaking of a new structure at the site of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 Jewish worshippers were murdered in the deadliest act of antisemitism in U.S. history on the Sabbath morning of Oct. 27, 2018.

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Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of an American president or vice president, said his purpose on Sunday was to “send a message to the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, to the country, and to the world, that we must never forget what the poison of antisemitism can do.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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