MOSCOW — Two attacks on police this week in Russia’s largely Muslim North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan have been claimed by organizations affiliated to the Islamic State group, according to media reports and monitoring groups.
Russian officials said that one police officer died and several were injured Tuesday after a police convoy was attacked overnight in Dagestan and that another police officer was killed Wednesday when a bomb exploded at a checkpoint.
The terrorist group, also known as ISIS, said it was responsible for both incidents, according to the SITE website that monitors online jihadi forums. News agencies Reuters and Agence France Presse reported ISIS was behind the Tuesday attack.
Dagestan became the center of a low-level Islamic insurgency in southern Russia following two brutal separatist wars that erupted in neighboring Chechnya after the fall of the Soviet Union. ISIS is believed to have gained a foothold in the region in recent years.
Several vehicles carrying police were damaged and one officer killed when a roadside bomb was detonated as a police convoy traveled Tuesday by a main road leading to the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala, according to Russian officials. ISIS claimed 10 police officers were killed in the blast, SITE reported.
One man was subsequently arrested in connection with the attack, Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reported Thursday, citing security service sources.
The second blast occurred Wednesday at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of the village of Sirtych, about 15 miles from the border with Azerbaijan, according to Russian officials, who said the explosive was detonated by a man who realized he was cornered and could not get away.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that a 6-month Russian military campaign in Syria is designed to destroy extremist Islamist organizations, including ISIS. Syrian government troops, backed by Russian aircraft and special forces on the ground, seized the strategic city of Palmyra from ISIS fighters over the weekend.
Kremlin officials have estimated almost 2,000 Russian citizens — many of whom are from the North Caucasus — are fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Dozens of people have been arrested in Russia in recent months because of alleged ISIS affiliations. A total of 18 individuals, allegedly working as ISIS recruiters, were detained Wednesday in Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported, citing unidentified police officials.
Russian security forces have been consistently accused of widespread human rights abuses in the North Caucasus, where conflict is also fueled by endemic corruption and poverty. A total of 1,871 people were killed and 1,420 injured in violent confrontations in Dagestan alone between 2010 and 2016, according to figures from the Kavkazky Uezl website that tracks the situation in the region.