Dagestan: Questions remain unanswered as Russia blames West for deadly attacks without evidence

There is a lot we still don't know about the attacks in Dagestan.

It's not clear who the gunmen were or what their wider affiliation might be. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility.

There are also questions over how many assailants there were and how many people died in total.

But despite that uncertainty, conclusions are being made, some more surprising than others.

According to the local member of Russia's parliament, Abdulkhakim Gadzhiyev, there is "no doubt" the attacks are connected to "the intelligence services of Ukraine and NATO countries".

Really? There doesn't seem to be any evidence.

But it's not the first time a domestic attack has prompted claims of Western and Ukrainian involvement.

Remember the deadly assault on Moscow's Crocus City Hall concert venue in March? It was Russia's deadliest terror attack in two decades.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, but that didn't stop authorities blaming Kyiv.

Before we take that further, let's rewind and establish what we do know about what happened on Sunday.

The attacks appear to have been coordinated. A synagogue and an Orthodox church in Derbent were seemingly the targets.

The historic city claims to be Russia's oldest. It's home to an ancient Jewish community as well as a UNESCO world heritage site.

The wider region of Dagestan is predominantly Muslim, and is no stranger to Islamist violence.

A homegrown insurgency staged multiple attacks across the North Caucasus over the last two decades, following Russia's wars in Chechnya.

In 2017, the FSB said it had defeated the insurgency and since then, attacks have become less frequent.

But the Crocus City attack was a reminder that Russia's Islamist threat hasn't gone away.

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And there was the disturbing moment in October, shortly after the start of the war in Gaza, when a rampaging mob stormed Dagestan's main airport on the hunt for Jewish passengers arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv.

There's plenty of speculation this attack may be in the same vein.

State news outlets have been reporting the gunmen were followers of "an international terrorist organisation", citing law enforcement agencies.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War has suggested it is likely the work of Islamic State's Northern Caucasus branch, Wilayat Kavkaz, but there is no confirmation of that.

Despite all this, though, it hasn't stopped some, like the local Duma deputy, claiming Western involvement.

Leonid Slutsky, who heads the Duma committee on international affairs, is another.

"The United States and its European satellites… have turned into outright sponsors of state terrorism," he said on Telegram, adding the blood of the victims is "on their hands".

Don't be surprised if there are more.

It fits the Russian authorities' wider narrative that the country is under attack by Ukraine and the West.

That is the reason, Russians are told, for going to war with Kyiv. Linking attacks like this helps to reinforce it.