A SUSPECTED Islamist gunman killed five women on Sunday in an Orthodox church in the Republic of Dagestan, in the North Caucasus, Russia.
Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack, but did not provide evidence. Russian authorities said that five others were injured: two were in a critical condition.
The attack occurred after a service to mark the beginning of Russian Orthodox Lent, in the small town of Kizlyar in the mainly Muslim region.
The gunman killed four women in the church using a hunting rifle, and a fifth woman later died from her injuries in hospital, the Tass news agency reported.
An Orthodox priest, Fr Pavel Kalikin, told the Russian RBK Daily newspaper that “we had finished the mass and were beginning to leave the church. A bearded man ran towards the church shouting ‘Allahu Akbar,’ and killed four people.”
BBC News reported that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia labelled the attack a “monstrous crime” that sought to divide the communities in Dagestan.
The republic, which borders Chechnya, is one of the most volatile and poorest parts of Russia: IS has regularly claimed responsibility for attacks on security forces since it established its “Caucasus Province” cell in 2015.
Attacks on the minority Orthodox Christian community, however, are rare.