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Shooting in Dagestan, Focus of ISIS Recruiters, Leaves One Dead
One person was killed and 10 were wounded after at least one gunman opened fire at the ancient citadel in Derbent, a historic crossroads in the southern republic of Dagestan that has been a focus of recruiting by the Islamic State, Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement on Wednesday.
The committee, Russia's equivalent of the F.B.I., has opened a criminal investigation into the attack late Tuesday at the citadel, a Unesco World Heritage site with walls dating to the sixth century.
The attack was most likely carried out by one of the "die-hard gangs or the militants who managed to survive and continue taking revenge on the peace and order enjoyed by Derbent residents," Ramazan Abdulatipov, the head of the republic, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. He expressed confidence that those responsible for the attack would be caught.
The attack came after a group of people climbed up to the observation deck in the citadel around 11:30 p.m., according to the Investigative Committee. They came under fire from the nearby forest, news reports said, and one of two border guards in the group was killed, with four other people seriously wounded.
More than 60 bullet casings were found in the forest, Interfax said.
The state-run news agency RIA Novosti, citing a law-enforcement source, reported that shots had been fired from three locations by at least two gunmen, one of whom had an automatic rifle.
The attackers were members of the so-called Southern terrorist group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and the attackers threw grenades before opening fire, according to the Russian TV network Life News.
Dagestan has been plagued by a long-running Islamic insurgency with frequent violent attacks. Over the past year, numerous leaders of insurgent groups have switched their loyalty from Al Qaeda to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Hundreds of recruits have left for the Middle East, reducing the number of deaths related to local violence.
Leaders of the Islamic State have called for attacks on targets in Russia, and the prospect of thousands of battle-hardened jihadists returning under the banner of the Islamic State, or of a new group of fanatical fighters fanning out across Russia, has unsettled the Kremlin.
President Vladimir V. Putin, in announcing in September that the Russian Air Force would begin an air campaign in Syria, said the deployment was in part meant to destroy the militants there before they could strike at home.
Derbent, among the oldest cities in Russia, long controlled traffic passing between the Russian steppe and the Middle East because of its location on a narrow stretch of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains.
[Source: By Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times, Moscow, 30Dec15]
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