The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement issued by the group’s Amaq information agency. The statement provided no evidence to support the claim.

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire on people leaving an Orthodox church in Dagestan’s city of Kizlyar. Five worshipers were killed and four others, including police and Russian guardsmen, injured. The attacker was killed in a shootout while trying to escape.

Kizlyar, located 170 kilometers from Dagestan’s capital of Makhachkala, has a population of around 50,000. People of ten ethnic groups live in the town, with Russians accounting for about 40% of the population.
“Investigation procedures are continuing. The attacker is being checked for connections with extremist organizations,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Monday.

Dagestan, the most ethnically complex entity of the Russian Federation, has been plagued for decades with strife and violence between the various ethnic groups and by the rise of Islamic extremism.

Dagestan and its neighbor Chechnya have been wracked by separatist and Islamic violence in recent years. Predominantly Muslim, Dagestan is one of the poorest and most unstable regions in Russia and has been a fertile recruiting ground for Islamist terrorist groups.

The Russian Christian Orthodox Church called the attack in Kizlyar as a “monstrous crime” that, coming on the eve of the Lenten fast, was a “provocation designed to stoke religious tensions between Orthodox Christians and Muslims” in Dagestan.