Police in Chechnya killed four Islamic militants Saturday when the group raided a Russian Orthodox church with guns, axes and Molotov cocktails.
Shots rang out during Saturday’s service and cries of “Allahu Akbar” could be heard as congregants scrambled to close and bolt the doors, Father Sergiy, the priest at Archangel Michael Church in Chechnya’s capital of Grozny, said, according to The Associated Press.
The terrorists killed one congregant outside the church building, wounded another inside the church as they attempted to gain entry, and killed two officers when police arrived on the scene, according to The New York Times.
Police officers gunned down all four attackers.
Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s leader, said the gunmen initially took hostages.
He issued a statement condemning their attack and threatening anyone daring to carry out similar acts.
“I once again very seriously declare that you can try to commit any actions aimed at undermining the security of the residents of Grozny and other settlements,” Kaydrov said, according to The Times. “But anyone who makes the first step along this path will be immediately destroyed.”
Islamic militants, some loyal to ISIS, have carried out sporadic attacks throughout Muslim-majority Chechneya in the past, especially in the province of Dagestan and other regions in the North Caucasus.
Chechnyan locals also have traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS.
Some of those locals have returned to Chechnya in the wake of ISIS’ heavy losses in Syria.
While Islamic militant attacks are not uncommon in Chechnya, attacks on churches are — partly due to the fact there are few churches in Chechnya, as it is mostly Muslim.
All of those churches are protected by order of Kaydrov, whom the Russian government installed in Chechnya to restore and maintain order after separatist wars in the region in the 1990s.
The attack has heightened security concerns as Russia prepares to host the World Cup in June.
No World Cup games will be played in Grozny, but the Egyptian team will use the town as a training ground.
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