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Unknown gunmen attacked places of worship and a police station in Russia’s restive Dagestan region this week, killing 19 people in an assault that underscored the country’s security vulnerabilities as it continues its war in Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Russian authorities said the coordinated attacks took place Sunday in Dagestan’s capital of Makhachkala and the city of Derbent, with attackers targeting two Orthodox churches, one synagogue and a police station. Fifteen police officers and four civilians were killed, including one Orthodox priest.

Video footage shared on social media depicted a police vehicle on fire and smoke rising from the synagogue in Derbent. Fire services managed to extinguish the flames by late Sunday evening, but the synagogue suffered severe damage.

Dagestan Governor Sergei Melikov reported that six attackers were killed after a manhunt. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Russian authorities suggested that the gunmen were followers of an international terrorist organization.

Following Sunday’s attacks, Dagestan has declared three days of mourning and provided financial assistance to the victims’ families.

Dagestan is a predominantly Muslim region with a history of separatist and militant violence, and has seen several bombings and attacks over the years – often attributed to militant Islamist fighters, CNN wrote.

Although many extremists left the country in the mid-2010s to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, terrorist activities have risen in recent years in Russia, particularly from ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K – the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan.

In March, ISIS-K fighters carried out a deadly attack at a Moscow concert hall, killing more than 140 people.

Observers noted that the incidents have also raised concerns about the region’s stability, exacerbated by Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, which has seen a disproportionate mobilization of ethnic minorities.

Sunday’s assaults follow a recent trend of rising violence in Russia, with critics blaming the government for focusing on political dissent rather than homegrown terrorist threats.

Even so, senior Russian officials have accused Ukraine and the West of trying to foment instability inside the country. Others have also outright suggested that Ukraine and NATO might be behind the attacks, although no evidence has been provided to support these claims.

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