MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on churchgoers in Russia’s predominantly Muslim Dagestan region that killed at least five people and injured five more.
Video footage showed people panicking as gunfire reverberated around a Russian Orthodox church in the Dagestan city of Kizlyar.
Witnesses said a gunman carrying a knife and a hunting rifle had opened fire on Sunday, February 18, at people leaving a service at the St. George Cathedral.
(Story continues after footage via Russia Today/YouTube)
A priest later told media that the gunman was heard shouting “Allahu akbar” or “Allah is Great” when he began shooting at the crowd.
Churchgoers said they had prevented more casualties by closing the door to the church and stopping the attacker from getting inside.
Officials announced that at least five women died in the shooting spree. Several others, including a police officer and a National Guardsman, were reportedly injured and two in critical condition.
The suspected attacker was later shot and killed by security forces. Authorities identified him only as a 22-year-old man from the region and said authorities detained his wife for questioning.
In a statement on Monday, February 19, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the shooting.
It said a Muslim fighter attacked “a Christian temple” in Kizlyar, a town of about 50,000 people on the Terek River delta on the border with Chechnya.
BosNewsLife wasn’t able to confirm the authenticity of the declaration independently, but the Islamic State group often uses the IS related website carrying the statement for posting militant comments.
Russian Investigative Committee Spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said it was too early to draw conclusions. “Investigators are looking at various theories of the incident, trying to find out the attacker’s motives. A terror attack is among possible theories,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted her as saying.
Sunday’s attack happened on the last day before Orthodox Christian lent.
The shooting also came less than two weeks after several top officials in Dagestan were reportedly detained on embezzlement charges, part of the Kremlin’s attempt to increase its control over the troubled area.
Dagestan is a volatile region in Russia located between the Russian republic of Chechnya and the Caspian Sea. After two separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya, an Islamic insurgency spread to Dagestan.