(PHOTO) A day of mourning has been declared in Dagestan after the attacks in which 19 people died

It is a day of mourning in the southern Russian region of Dagestan after a rampage by armed militants who killed 19 people, most of them policemen, and attacked religious buildings in apparently coordinated attacks in two towns.

Sunday's violence was the latest that authorities blamed on Islamic extremists in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region, and the deadliest in Russia since March, when gunmen opened fire at a concert in a Moscow suburb, killing 145 people.

A branch of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in March.

But no one claimed responsibility for the attacks in Dagestan's regional capital Makhachkala and nearby Derbent, both adjacent to the Caspian Sea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to blame Ukraine for the attack in March, without evidence, despite an Islamic State affiliate claiming responsibility.

Kyiv has vehemently denied any involvement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had received reports of Sunday's attacks and efforts to help victims.

The Investigative Committee, the country's top state criminal investigation agency, said all five attackers had been killed.

Of the 19 dead people, 15 were police officers.

Among the dead was Reverend Nikolai Kotelnikov, a 66-year-old Russian Orthodox priest at the church in Derbent.

According to the information, he was liquidated before the fire was set in the church. His throat was cut, informs Shamil Khadulaev, deputy head of the local body for public supervision.

The Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent was also set on fire.

Shortly after the Derbent attacks, militants opened fire on a police station in Makhachkala and attacked a Russian Orthodox church and synagogue there before being hunted down and killed by special forces.

Russian news reports said the attackers included the two sons and grandson of Magomed Omarov, the head of the Dagestan regional branch of the Kremlin's main United Russia party.

Omarov was detained by the police for questioning, and United Russia quickly dismissed him from its ranks.

 

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