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North Caucasus branch of Islamic State likely carried out attacks in Dagestan - ISW

North Caucasus branch of Islamic State likely carried out attacks in Dagestan - ISW Illustrative photo (photo: Russian media)

The North Caucasus branch of the Islamic State (IS) Vilayat Kavkaz likely carried out a complex and coordinated attack on a church, synagogue, and law enforcement agencies in the Republic of Dagestan on June 23, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

They noted that after the attack, the Russian branch of IS-K Al-Azaim Media issued a statement praising their brothers from the Caucasus for demonstrating what they are capable of.

ISW writes that Al-Azaim did not claim responsibility for the attack itself, but the reference to the Caucasus convincingly indicates that Vilayat Kavkaz is responsible for the attack.

The institute's analysts pointed to a warning from the regional anti-terrorism structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that Vilayat Kavkaz had become more active after the IS-K attack on Crocus City Hall near Moscow on March 22 and had intensified recruitment calls in the North Caucasus since April.

The report states that the Russian authorities attempted to conduct a vague anti-terrorism operation in the North Caucasus but mostly focused their response on baseless accusations against Ukraine and NATO for the attack.

Some Russian officials are already claiming that Ukraine and NATO are allegedly involved in the June 23 attack. The Institute emphasized that there is no basis for these accusations.

The report concluded that increasingly strained relations between Russia and the Muslim minority, especially in the Caucasus, are likely to continue to provide Vilayat Kavkaz and other extremist groups with a valuable recruiting ground.

Attacks in Dagestan on June 23

On Sunday, June 23, a series of armed attacks were carried out by unidentified assailants in Makhachkala and Derbent, targeting police officers, a synagogue, and an Orthodox church, the priest of which was killed.

Heavy military equipment has been deployed on the streets of Derbent. The city is under lockdown.

The sons of the head of the Sergokala District of Dagestan, Omarov, were involved in the attacks. He has been detained.

More than 15 Russian police officers were killed by the militants.