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Grozny church attacked in attempt to incite religious tensions — clerics

May 20, 1:08 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Moscow Patriarchate spokesman Vladimir Legoida, described the attack as a yet another attempt to breed hostility between Orthodox Christian and Islamic believers

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MOSCOW, May 19. /TASS/. Saturday’s attack on a Russian Orthodox temple in the Chechen capital Grozny is yet another attempt to incite religious tensions, Orthodox and Islamic clerics and officials said.

In his account on the TamTam messenger Vladimir Legoida, the official spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, described the attack as a "yet another attempt by pseudo-Islamic extremists to breed hostility between Orthodox Christian and Islamic believers."

Later, Legoida told reporters that "a bunch of extremists, presumably of pseudo-Islamic beliefs, tried to intimidate Orthodox Christian believers of Chechnya <…> but received a fitting rebuff."

"We mourn the parishioner of the Archangel Mikhail church, and law-enforcers, who died on duty as heroes, protecting the congregation," he added. "Orthodox believers and Muslims of Russia will remain united in the fight against terrorism and will support each other in the face of danger."

Chechen Mufti Salah Mezhiyev described the attack as "yet another heinous and inhumane crime" orchestrated by the West.

"The most horrific thing is that this crime was committed during the holy month of Ramadan, during which all conflicts, wars and killings are prohibited," he said. "Western masterminds decided to destabilize situation in the Chechen Republic through this horrific deed, to intimidate its residents and guests, to artificially create instability in the region."

Chechnya’s Minister of Nationalities, External Relations, Mass Media, and Communications Dzhambulat Umarov said that "even a most insane Muslim believer will never commit a crime like this during the holy month of Ramadan."

"It is no accident that an Orthodox temple, the first to be rebuilt in the post-war capital of the Chechen Republic, was chosen as a target," he said. "Peaceful co-existence of our religions has always been an example of friendship and accord not only in North Caucasus, but in the entire Russia. However, we are perfectly aware that unity and mutual respect among the peoples of Russia is not among the far-reaching plans of our adversaries."

The head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, Igor Barinov, said the attack failed to reach its goal.

"Enemies try to attack our softest spots," he said. "However, no matter how hard they try <…>, they will not be able to breed hostility, national and religious hatred among our traditional followers of Islam and Orthodox Christianity, who have deep respect for each other."

He said Saturday’s tragedy mirrored a similar attack in February, when five people were killed in an Orthodox temple in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan during the Shrove Sunday.

On Saturday afternoon, a group of four people attempted to break into the Archangel Michael’s Church in Grozny, located on a busy street in the heart of the Chechen capital. It is a popular tourist site surrounded by shopping malls and cafes. A service was under way in the church at the moment of the assault.

The attackers, who carried smoothbore guns, knives, axes and plastic bottles with inflammable liquid, were unable to get inside the building. However, as a result of the attack, two police officers and one civilian were killed, two more officers were wounded. Four attackers were killed.

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