Multiple people, including a priest, killed in attacks in Russian Republic, officials say

Gunmen opened fire at places of worship across two cities in Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday, killing multiple people, including an Orthodox priest and police officers, officials said.

The gunmen opened fire at synagogues, churches and a police post in the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent in the Republic of Dagestan − a predominantly Muslim region along the Caspian Sea, authorities said. The exact number of gunmen and victims involved in the attacks was not immediately clear.

Dagestan's Gov. Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday that six of the gunmen had been “liquidated" in the two cities. The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said five attackers were “eliminated," Russian state news agencies reported.

More than 15 police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest who worked in Derbent for more than 40 years, were killed in the attacks, according to Melikov. The governor declared Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as days of mourning, with flags lowered to half-staff and all entertainment events canceled.

"This is a day of tragedy for Dagestan and the whole country," Melikov said in the video statement published on the messaging app Telegram.

Dagestan has faced waves of violence in the past, but attacks have become more rare in recent years. The mountainous region was hit by an Islamist insurgency that spilled over from neighboring Chechnya in the 2000s, which Russia's Federal Security Service said was quelled in 2017.

The attacks also follow recent extremist violence in the country. In March, four armed men killed 145 people at a concert hall. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which was Russia's worst terrorist attack in years.

Last October, hundreds of Dagestanis rioted at the Makhachkala airport as they looked for Israeli citizens and Jewish people who had just flown from Tel Aviv.

Gunmen attacked multiple places of worship

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, Melikov said authorities "understand who is behind the organization of the terrorist attacks and what goal they pursued." The governor did not provide further details.

Russian media reported that gunfire had erupted in the center of Makhachkala and cited the interior ministry as saying exits from the Caspian Sea port had been closed amid the violence. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said gunmen opened fire at a synagogue in Makhachkala.

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About 75 miles south of Makhachkala, gunmen attacked a synagogue and a church in Derbent. Authorities told Russian media that both the synagogue and the church were set on fire, and two attackers were killed.

State media cited law enforcement as saying two attackers were detained and were identified as the sons of the head of central Dagestan's Sergokala district.

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gunmen attack synagogues and churches attacked in Russia: Officials