Shooting at ancient citadel in Russia's Caucasus, one dead

Moscow (AFP) –


One person was killed and 11 injured in a shooting at an ancient citadel in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Dagestan, officials said on Wednesday.

The attack occurred on Tuesday night near the UNESCO heritage site in Derbent, which claims to be Russia's oldest city and celebrated its 2,000th anniversary this year.

Islamist rebels in Dagestan, a restive region neighbouring Chechnya, have been increasingly flocking to the Islamic State group, which in June declared it had established a franchise there.

The shooting was carried out by three members of a local rebel group which has been accused of carrying out attacks in the past, an unnamed source in law enforcement told RIA Novosti state news agency.

"As a result of a shooting by the fortress one person was killed and 11 were injured," a spokeswoman for the local health ministry, Tatyana Abdullayeva, told AFP, adding that five people were in grave condition.

The source told RIA Novosti that the slain victim was employed by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and that another employee was also injured.

The suspects allegedly open fire towards the citadel -- which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003 -- from three positions in a nearby forest, according to the source.

Sixty-seven bullet casings were recovered at the scene, Interfax news agency reported, citing a source in law enforcement.

Dagestan leader Ramazan Abdulatipov told Interfax news agency the attack could have been staged by "bandit groups" that "continue to take vengeance for the peace and tranquility the people of Derbent live in".

Police official Magomed Taymuradov told AFP that security forces were searching for suspects.

Located on the southeastern shore of the Caspian Sea, Derbent served as a strategic port city at the crossroads of empires and was incorporated into the Russian empire in the 19th century.

Now the Kremlin is fighting a deadly insurgency against Islamist rebels in the largely Muslim North Caucasus, with unrest particularly intense in Dagestan.

At least 118 people were killed there between January and November as a result of the conflict, according to the Caucasian Knot news portal, which monitors militancy in the North Caucasus.

Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front has called on jihadists from the Caucasus to stage attacks in Russia in response to Moscow's bombing campaign in the country.

Moscow in part justified its intervention in Syria to prevent the IS group and other extremists from perpetrating attacks on Russian soil.

According to FSB figures released earlier this month, nearly 2,900 Russians are fighting or have fought with the extremist jihadists in Iraq and Syria.