Chechen church attackers killed: Moscow
The Russian authorities say the police shot dead four gunmen who attacked a Russian Orthodox church in the mostly Muslim republic of Chechnya.
Russia’s Investigative Committee reported that two police officers were killed and another two wounded in the May 19 attack. One parishioner was killed and another wounded.
The authorities said the four insurgents were armed with guns and knives while the Interfax news agency reported that attackers also had axes and Molotov cocktails.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader, announced that the attack at the Archangel Michael Church in the centre of the regional capital, Grozny, to take hostages.
Strongman Kadyrov said he personally oversaw the operation in which all the gunmen were killed.
Priest Father Sergiy said he was holding a service when shots and chants of “Allahu Akbar” were heard outside.
The RIA Novosti news agency reported that the congregation bolted the doors as the gunmen tried to force an entry.
Grozny once had a substantial ethnic-Russian, Christian population which mostly fled during the post-Soviet wars. The church was at the centre of some of the battles of the 1990s.
Russia prepares to host the World Cup next month and Chechnya will be used as the training base for the Egyptian team.
Chechnya has endured two post-Soviet separatist wars that sparked an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus region.
Militants launch frequent attacks on police, moderate Muslims and the authorities, and some have joined so-called Islamic State.
Kadyrov, with the backing of the Kremlin, has cracked down on dissent with human rights groups accusing his forces of abuses including torture, kidnapping, murder and targeting the homosexual community.
Russia claims around 2,000 citizens, mostly from the North Caucasus, have joined Isis in Iraq and Syria.
Chechen violence has also been blamed on organised crime, business disputes and political and clan rivalry.
Kadyrov is accused of using allegations of militancy as a pretext to crack down on opponents.
Attacks on Chechnya’s few churches are rare as they are normally protected by government forces.
Kadyrov announced: “I once again very seriously declare that you can try to commit any actions aimed at undermining the security of the residents of Grozny and other settlements.
“But anyone who makes the first step along this path will be immediately destroyed,” he said on the Telegram messaging app. His beloved Instagram and Facebook accounts were closed after he was added to a United States sanctions list.
Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin. Picture credit: Kremlin