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DAGESTAN (RUSSIA): TERROR STRIKES AS TENSION BOILS
by Elizabeth Kendal
|click on map to enlarge|
Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, identifying the gunman by his alleged 'nom de guerre', Khalil al-Dagestani and describing him as a 'soldier of the caliphate'. In a video subsequently released by pro-IS media, a man alleged to be the gunman appears dressed in what seems to be the same black vest and camouflage pants, his rifle and knife on display. Sitting cross-legged beside an IS flag, the masked man swears an oath of allegiance to IS.
|Doctors examine wounded patients |
in a hospital in Kizlyar (EPA)
|Women comfort each other |
following the deadly attack.
(RU-RTR Russian Television
via Associated Press)
As journalist Anton Orech notes, lawless, out-of-control Dagestan has long been home to Russia's 'main Islamist cells' and the source of 'the biggest stream of people to ISIS'. This is unsurprising, for it is well known that jihadist groups thrive in corrupt and lawless regions. Therefore, we should expect that jihadists too will furiously resist Moscow's intervention and seek to undermine it. It is quite possible that the terror attack on the RO church in Kizlyar was as much an attack on Moscow as on the Christian presence in Dagestan. It may also have been an attempt to trigger religious conflict around which IS could rally trans-national jihadists. Tensions are boiling and terror attacks may well escalate in direct proportion to Moscow's success at cleaning up the republic.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
* the new administration installed in Dagestan; in particular for:
- Vladimir Vasilyev (68), the eminently qualified ethnic-Kazakh native Muscovite appointed by President Putin on 3 October to serve as Acting Head of Dagestan until elections can be held.
- Artem Vasilyev (39), the young former Minister of Economy of Tatarstan appointed by Vasilyev on 7 Feb to serve as Prime Minister over Dagestan's new government.
* the Church in Dagestan -- Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant -- comprised of ethnic Russians and Muslim converts; in particular that:
- the Lord will pour out his grace on the church in Kizlyar, to bring comfort and peace to those who grieve and are fearful;
- Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, will deploy his angelic forces to shield priests and churches (which are exposed) as well as lay-persons and house-churches throughout Dagestan as tensions escalate around them.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
TERROR STRIKES AS TENSION BOILS IN DAGESTAN (RUSSIA)
On Sunday 18 February a local Islamic jihadi attacked Christians as they emerged from Kizlyar's Russian Orthodox church. They had been ushering in Lent when the gunman approached, cried 'Allahu Akbar' and opened fire. To keep the gunman outside, believers barricaded the church door while police shot the gunman dead. Four Christian women were killed instantly; a fifth died later in hospital. Four others were wounded. Islamic State claimed responsibility. More than 3400 Chechen and Dagestani Muslims have travelled to Syria for jihad; an estimated 400 have returned. The attack comes in the wake of an intervention from Moscow aimed at ending clan-based systemic corruption. One analyst likened Dagestan to 'a disturbed anthill'. A new administration has been installed; tensions are boiling. Please pray for Dagestan and its Church.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate.
She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).