Church set on fire in Russia’s Muslim Caucasus

By Amie Ferris-Rotman, Reuters
3/01/2011

MOSCOW — Unidentified attackers set a church ablaze with a grenade in Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus late on Sunday, media reported, in the latest act of violence in a region where Moscow is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency.

No one was hurt in the attack on the Russian Orthodox Church, state-run RIA news agency reported, which took place at 9.30 p.m. in the town of Ordzhonikidze, in the impoverished Ingushetia region which borders Chechnya.

“A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the church. The shell hit the church’s roof,” a police source told RIA.

A decade after Moscow drove separatists from power in the second of two wars in Chechnya, the North Caucasus is plagued by violence, where youths angry about poverty and fired up by the ideology of jihad (holy war) stage near-daily attacks.

Though rare, vandalism of churches belonging to the small Christian communities in the North Caucasus has increased over the past year.

Tension between Christians and Muslims — who make up a fifth of Russia’s population — flared in Moscow last month in a string of ethnic clashes.

Moscow police detained hundreds including young nationalists after some 7,000 soccer fans and nationalists chanting racist slogans demonstrated near Red Square and attacked passers-by who appeared to be non-Slavic.

Separately on Monday, gunmen shot dead Magomedsaid Temeyev, a practitioner of traditional medicine in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan, Interfax news agency reported.

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