Six people are dead and four more injured, after an attack on a church in the Daghestani city of Kizlyar. Five parishioners and the attacker were killed, while the injured included two police officers, who remain in hospital. The attacker was reportedly a member of the Islamic State.
At 16:00 on 18 February, eyewitnesses say an armed man approached the Church of George the Victorious as celebrations for Forgiveness Sunday came to an end. The man then opened fire with a hunting rifle as parishioners left the church. There were around 500 worshippers inside.
‘An unknown person with a beard ran towards the temple shouting “Allahu Akbar” and mortally wounded four, wounded three other people, as well as two police officers. When we heard the shots, we quickly closed the doors so he could not get inside. He had a gun and a knife. He was eliminated by the arrived police officers, who first surrounded him’, RBK quoted church rector Pavel Kalikin as saying.
A source in Daghestani law enforcement told OC Media the special services have identified the attacker as 23-year-old Khalil Khalilov, a member of an ‘ISIS “sleeper cell” in Russia’.
‘Khalilov joined the Islamic State last year. He was a native of the village of Kidero in Tsunta District of Daghestan, but lived in the village of Rassvet of Tarumovka District. After the attack on the townspeople of Kizlyar, law enforcement officers searched Khalilov’s parents’ house in Kidero’, the source said.
While initial reports stated that the shooter was not acting alone, and that the attack was on public celebrations in a park near the church, the source said both of these were untrue. According to him, festivities at the park ended at around 13:00, while the attack occurred three hours later.
Four women were killed instantly in the attack, while a fifth died in hospital while undergoing surgery. All five were regular parishioners at the church.
‘Two of the dead were sisters, one of them was a doctor, who everyone in Kizlyar knew, the other was a public figure, a great helper in the temple. Another is a woman who begged at the temple. The fourth of the dead was a teacher for many years, and after retirement became an active parishioner, organising pilgrimages to Diveyevo, to Valaam’, TASS quotes the Secretary of the Makhachkala Diocese, hieromonk Ioann as saying.
The four wounded included two parishioners and two police officers. According to Daghestan’s Ministry of Health, as of Sunday evening doctors assessed the two women to be in serious condition, while the officer’s conditions were moderate. The officers are currently in the department of traumatology, with wounds to the lower limbs.
Psychologists are assisting witnesses of the shooting, as well as with relatives of the dead and wounded.
Criminal cases have been opened for ‘murder of two or more people’ and ‘attempt on the lives of law enforcement officers’. Acting head of the republic, Vladimir Vasilyev, promised to provide ‘all the necessary support to the families of the dead and injured’.
Chairman of the Investigative Committee of Russia, Alexander Bastrykin, has taken the investigation under his personal control.
The Daghestani Muftiate condemned the attack, and called the attacker a ‘Wahhabi’. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, described said the incident ‘aimed at provoking a confrontation between Orthodox Christians and Muslims’.