Two officers and a worshiper were killed as armed militants attempted to storm an Orthodox church in Russia’s Chechnya. The attack was thwarted by law enforcers, who shot dead four ISIS militants.
The Church of Michael the Archangel in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s Republic of Chechnya, was attacked on Saturday by a group of gunmen, who attempted to take parishioners hostage.
“One of the men rushed to block the door with a chair… we were holding the door,” the female worshiper told RIA-Novosti of the frightening experience, adding that shots from what she thought were pistols and machine guns were fired.
The shooting outside the church began during the evening service, which was attended by around 15 people, she said. The priest’s children were playing outside when the attack began, and his wife had to rush from the church to lead them to safety, the witness added.
Dramatic police footage showed special forces using a battering ram to make their way inside the church building where the armed terrorists were holed up, while Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, arrived on site to personally oversee the operation. The video concluded with rescued women and children evacuated from the church by the officers.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said that two officers were killed at the church, while one worshiper also lost his life. Knives and a sawn-off shotgun were recovered from the militants after they were eliminated.
“The professionalism of the police officers guarding the church prevented more serious consequences of the attack and avoided a large number of casualties,” the Investigative Committee said on its website.
Kadyrov also confirmed the elimination of the militants as a result of a “swift security operation.” Three of the killed militants were residents of Chechnya, while the leader of the gang was from “one of the neighboring regions,” he added.
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Kadyrov also said that “there is intelligence data that the militants received the order [to carry out the attack] from one of the Western countries.”
Mufti Ismail Berdiyev, chairman of the Coordination Center of North Caucasus Muslims, has condemned the attack, which he said was aimed at destabilizing the situation in Chechnya.
“It was deliberately done during the holy month in order to destabilize the situation. It’s the month of Ramadan now. It’s the time when not only wars are forbidden, but even foul language is outlawed,” Berdiyev told TASS.
The attack was “yet another attempt by pseudo-Islamic extremists to pit Orthodox Christians and Muslims against each other,” said Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Information Department of the Russian Orthodox Church.