More details have emerged following a shocking attack on worshippers gathering to prepare for the Orthodox Christian festival of Great Lent on Sunday.
A gunman opened fire outside an Orthodox Church in the town of Kizlyar, killing four women at the scene and mortally wounding a fifth before he was himself shot dead by police.
Authorities now say they believe that man was Khalil Khalilov, aged 22 and from the village of Rassvet.
Photos from the scene show what appears to be a barreled shotgun and a body with several shotgun shells lying alongside.
— RT (@RT_com) February 18, 2018
A priest from the church, Father Pavel, gave this account to Russian outlet RBK of what transpired:
About 4 p.m., we finished the service, and people began to go out. An unknown man with a beard ran to the church shouting “Allahu Akbar” and mortally wounded four, injuring three more people, as well as two police officers. When we heard the shots, we quickly closed the doors so that he could not go inside. He had a gun and a knife. He was eliminated by the arriving police officers, having previously surrounded him.
Dagestan is a predominantly Muslim Republic in Russia’s North Caucasus. The region has experienced violence dating back to Moscow winning control of the area in the 19th century. But recent years have seen relative peace between the areas many ethnic and religious groups.
Russian Muslims constitute a growing minority in the country, concentrated mainly in the North Caucasus and the Republics of Tatarstan and Bashkhortostan. Moscow invests heavily in Muslim regions, such as Chechnya, which has largely satiated historic rebelliousness.
The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill, has already denounced the efforts of the attacker to sow division between Christians and Muslims on the eve of the Orthodox holiday of Great Lent.