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The wave of terror attacks in Russia’s Dagestan: A timeline

On the evening of June 23, terrorists attacked Russian Orthodox churches and synagogues in Derbent and Makhachkala in Russia's Dagestan. The attacks were synchronized. The latest official reports suggest a death toll of 19: 15 law enforcement officers and four civilians. The head of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, has linked the terrorist attacks to the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, sources for the news agencies TASS and RBC believe that the attackers were supporters of an international Islamist terrorist network.

The church and the synagogue in Derbent

In Derbent, at approximately 5:55 p.m. local time, two groups of terrorists simultaneously threw incendiary devices at the Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin Mary on Lenin Street and at the Kele-Numaz Synagogue on Tagi-Zade Street. The buildings caught fire. The attackers then immediately began shooting at the police officers guarding the buildings. At around 6 p.m., the police received the first report about a wounded law enforcement officer.

Four people were killed in a shooting outside the Derbent synagogue: a security guard, a policeman, and two passers-by. Another police officer was injured.

One more policeman was killed outside the church. Furthermore, 66-year-old Father Nikolai, the rector of the church for over 40 years, was killed inside the church. The attackers slit his throat, before fleeing in a white Volkswagen Polo.

The church and the synagogue in Makhachkala

About half an hour later, at 6:30 p.m., another group of terrorists opened fire on police officers guarding the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Gromov Street in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. Church guard Mikhail, who was armed only with a gas pistol, was killed by a gunshot to the head. The shootout with the police took place a few meters away from the church, on Mirzabekova Street. The Russian media outlet Shot writes that there were three attackers. Four police officers were killed in the shooting and several were injured.

A burnt-out car on Mirzabekova Street, not far from the cathedral, where the shootout between the terrorists and the police occurred
A burnt-out car on Mirzabekova Street, not far from the cathedral, where the shootout between the terrorists and the police occurred
Alexander Chernykh, Kommersant

The attackers seized a VAZ-2114 car from a local and fled along Komarova Street towards the railroad tracks. To hijack the car, one of the terrorists fired in the air to stop its driver.

At the same time, 6:30 p.m., a group of unidentified people threw a Molotov cocktail at the Makhachkala synagogue on Yermoshkin Street. On the doors of the building, unknown persons left references to surahs and ayahs from the Quran. The synagogue is located on the same street as the traffic police post, so the attack on the synagogue was immediately followed by a separate shootout with the police.

The counterterrorist operation and the arrests

In response to the attacks in Makhachkala and Derbent, an operational headquarters was set up. Russia's Investigative Committee initiated criminal proceedings against the perpetrators. Residents of Dagestan were asked not to leave their homes without an urgent need. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee announced the introduction of the counterterrorist operation regime in Dagestan, and the restrictions were not lifted until the morning of June 24.

Military equipment, such as helicopters and armored personnel carriers, was noticed in the streets of Derbent. The city center was disconnected from the power grid. An Interfax source reported that the attackers had been blocked in the Hayal restaurant. Another shooting in Derbent took place almost one kilometer away from the restaurant, near Lenin Square, which Agentstvo located by analyzing the footage of the shooting posted by local Telegram channels. The shootouts in Derbent continued into the night. Among the law enforcement officers killed in the confrontation was the chief of police from the nearby town of Dagestanskie Ogni, who had come as reinforcement.

In Makhachkala, shootings and clashes between the terrorists and the police also continued throughout the evening. One of the shootings took place near the Holy Dormition Cathedral, where 19 locals were sheltering.

  • The Holy Dormition Cathedral in Makhachkala. The building is intact, except for a few smashed windows and bullet halls in the walls
  • The bullet halls from the shootout between the attackers and the police
  • Burnt-out cars in the cathedral yard
  • A cathedral window. 19 locals were sheltered inside during the attack
  • Flowers have been brought to the cathedral entrance in memory of the security guard who was shot dead by the terrorists

Photos by Alexander Chernykh, Kommersant

Another shooting unfolded in the village of Sergokala, where unknown assailants reportedly opened fire on a car carrying police officers. Magomed Omarov, head of the Sergokala district, was detained after it became known that two of his sons had taken part in the attack in Makhachkala. According to local channels, Omarov may have been in the car that was fired upon.

As Agentstvo reports, the VAZ-2114, which the terrorists hijacked after the attacks in Makhachkala, belongs to Shamil Ibragimov, who worked for the republican center for countering extremism until at least 2022. APBs have been put out for the VAZ-2114 and the Volkswagen Polo.

19 killed: 15 police and 4 civilians

In total, according to the head of Dagestan, 15 law enforcement officers were killed and 17 more were wounded during the attacks in Derbent and Makhachkala. Among civilians, four fatalities were reported.

According to 112, 44 people were injured, including 37 law enforcement officers. 22 victims remain in hospitals, Baza writes. These reports have yet to receive official confirmation.

Five of the attackers were reportedly killed: three in Makhachkala and two in Derbent. Two of them were Osman and Adil Omarov, the sons of Magomed Omarov, head of the Sergokala district of Dagestan. Another attacker was his nephew. Magomed Omarov was detained and taken to a police station. He has already been expelled from United Russia (Russia’s ruling political party). Another killed terrorist was identified as MMA fighter Gadzhimurad Kagirov.

According to Baza, the terrorists used an American AR-15 rifle during the shootout in Makhachkala.

Active search measures are ongoing in Dagestan, as law enforcement officers are looking for accomplices of the terrorists. June 24, 25, and 26 have been declared days of mourning in the republic.

Theories about the attackers

The head of the region, Sergei Melikov, stated in a video message that the terrorist attacks were linked to the war in Ukraine:

“Undoubtedly, today we all have once again felt ourselves participants of the events that are unfolding all over the world. Earlier, the participants of these events were mostly those who are taking part in [Russia's] special military operation [in Ukraine], who are defending our country on the line of contact. But we must realize that war is coming to our home as well. We felt this before, but today we are directly confronted with this war.”

According to TASS and RBC sources, the terrorists are supporters of an international Islamist terrorist network.

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