At least 19 people have been killed after gunmen opened fire in a series of shootings in Russia’s Dagestan, the Investigative Committee has said.

The attacks targeted a synagogue and an Orthodox church in Derbent as well as a traffic police post later in Makhachkala.

According to the Investigative Committee of Russia, 15 law enforcement officers were killed, as well as four civilians, including an Orthodox priest.

The Muftiate of Dagestan, a Muslim administrative body, said 25 people were injured.

Five of the gunmen have reportedly been shot dead and identified, the Investigative Committee said.

“This is a day of tragedy for Dagestan and the whole country,” Sergei Melikov, governor of the Dagestan region, said in a video published early on Monday on the Telegram messaging app.

Three days of mourning have been declared in the predominantly Muslim region following the attacks, which come amid Russia’s two-year war in Ukraine.

The scene in Derbent. Pic: BNO News

Plumes of smoke rise from a building in Derbent. Pic: Reuters
Pic: Reuters

Dagestan attack map

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which Russia’s national anti-terrorism committee blamed on “terrorists”.

Russia’s state media cited law enforcement as saying two sons of the head of central Dagestan’s Sergokala district were among the attackers and had been detained by investigators.

The synagogue and church were both set on fire before the attackers reportedly fled in a car, according to the authorities.

Questions remain unanswered as Russia blames West for deadly attacks

There is a lot we still don’t know about the attacks in Dagestan.

It’s not clear who the gunmen were or what their wider affiliation might be. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility.

There are also questions over how many assailants there were and how many people died in total. But despite that uncertainty, conclusions are being made, some more surprising than others.

According to the local member of Russia’s parliament, Abdulkhakim Gadzhiyev, there is “no doubt” the attacks are connected to “the intelligence services of Ukraine and NATO countries”.

Read Ivor Bennett’s full analysis

There was later an exchange of gunfire at a police post in Makhachkala, about 125km (75 miles) to the north along the Caspian Sea coast, Reuters added.

It comes three months after 145 people were killed in an attack claimed by the Islamic State on a concert hall near Moscow – Russia’s worst such attack in years.

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Derbent is home to an ancient Jewish community in the South Caucasus and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Dagestan, which borders Georgia and Azerbaijan, is in southern Russia.

In the 2000s, Dagestan was hit by an Islamist insurgency spilling over from neighbouring Chechnya, with Russian security forces trying to combat extremists in the region.

In recent years, attacks became rarer, with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) saying in 2017 that it had defeated the uprising.