The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility Monday for an attack that killed five at a church in the Dagestan region of Russia.
Authorities said the gunman was Khalil Khalilov and that he was a member of an IS sleeper cell.
Five people were killed in the shooting Sunday as worshipers left a traditional pre-Lent celebration in the city of Kizlyar, capital of the Republic of Dagestan.
“An unidentified bearded man ran toward the church yelling ‘Allah Akba,'” Father Pavel, dean of the church, told RBC.
“When we heard the shots, we quickly closed the doors so that he couldn’t get inside. He had a gun and a knife.”
Several others were injured in the attack. The gunman was shot dead by police.
RBC reported that Khalilov, 22, joined the Islamic State last year and intended to target the attack on the Christian holiday.
Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, though, disputed the shooter’s Islamic ties.
“One can say with certainty that the bandit and his patrons, in case he had any, do not have any direct or indirect connection to Islam,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram.
“The North Caucasus has always been a region of close cooperation and mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians. So today, it is our duty to deter assaults on our heritage that instigators and Russia’s enemies may make.”
By Sara Shayanian