Four Islamist terrorists, armed with guns and knives, killed three people during an attack on a church in Chechnya.
The gunmen, who were also carrying Molotov cocktails according to some news reports, attempted to storm the church in Grozny on Saturday 19 May and take hostages.
One Christian church-goer and two police officers were killed, and a second worshipper and two police officers were injured.
Minister Sergiy Abasov was holding a service when shots were heard outside the church, along with chants of “Allahu Akbar”. Worshippers rushed to shut the doors and secure the bolts as the gunmen tried to break in.
He told the TASS news agency: “They could not possibly hold it for long. There were only elderly women and just one man. I approached and helped holding it, and this is when they started shooting right through the door.”
The minister ran to another part of the church and shouted from a window across to his wife and three children, who were standing outside their home. He told reporters, “I yelled ‘Get Inside’, but the attackers opened fire on my wife. She tried to take shelter in the house, but it was too late, he [one of the attackers] had already reloaded his shotgun and was now aiming at her. She ran to the dining room, and then locked herself in the basement, and this is what saved her life.”
A police officer on duty at the church was one of those killed. The injured man, who was holding the door, is thought to be a local doctor.
Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s Moscow-backed regional leader, said that terrorists attempted to take hostages inside the church. Armed officers arrived and in the ensuing shoot-out the four attackers were killed, along with a second police officer, while two other officers were injured.
Russia’s Investigative Committee blamed Islamic State for the attack.
In February, an IS gunman killed five women and injured five people in an attack on Christians leaving a church service in Kizlyar, in the neighbouring republic of Dagestan. Christians in the North Caucasus region are particularly vulnerable to Islamist threats, and face harassment and intimidation from the Muslim majority.