Two policemen have been shot dead in Dagestan, a Muslim-majority autonomous republic in the Russian Federation.
An unknown number of gunmen pulled up to three traffic officers in a Russian-made Lada and ambushed them in their patrol car, shooting one dead and leaving another mortally wounded, according to the Reuters news agency.
“One was killed at the spot, another died in hospital when gunmen attacked police patrol from a car,” claimed a police spokesman.
The identity and motives of the killers, who struck near the town of Kizilyurt, has not been disclosed and may not have been determined at this point.
Dagestan is known to be a recruiting ground for the Islamic State, however, with the self-proclaimed caliphate claiming responsibility for a shooting at a church in the region in February, which left a number of women dead and several police officers injured.
Dagestan has long been a volatile Russian federal subject, bordering the autonomous republic of Chechnya which critics say is run as an effective fiefdom by local strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.
Before Kadyrov’s installation, Chechnya was the scene of two brutal internecine wars between Russian forces and Muslim separatists.
The first of these ended with the fledgeling Russian government, which had only recently emerged from the wreck of the Soviet Union, leaving Chechnya effectively independent — but it soon became a rogue state in the grip of Wahhabi radicals such as Saudi jihadist Ibn al-Khattab.
Khattab invaded Dagestan from his base in Chechnya at the head of the so-called Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade in 1999, and is thought to have exterminated a number of small ethnic groups in the region’s mountains.
The incursion was defeated and Chechnya brought back under a semblance of control by forces organised by then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who forged much of his early public reputation in the conflict and went on to win the federal presidency, which he holds to this day.