11/03/2010, 00.00
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Attack on Christians in Russian Caucasus

by Nina Achmatova
Three churches in Karachayevo-Cherkessia set on fire, but Muslims are being targeted too: Imam killed in Dagestan. Attempts to "destabilize the inter-religious peace."

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The North Caucasus is till burning and this time the target of violence are religious. Attacks on Christian churches and against Muslim leaders have taken place between 1 and 2 November in different parts of the region.

Local Christian leaders have been trying now not to foment tension and avoid pointing the finger at religious extremism, but the eyes of investigators and public opinion are all pointing in that direction.

At dawn on Nov. 1, three fires have occurred in as many churches in the Autonomous Republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia. According to preliminary reports, the attackers set fire to an Orthodox church in Orjonikidzevsky, almost destroyed, then continued on to another Orthodox and a Baptist church. In all cases, the buildings wee saved by the immediate intervention of pastors and faithful, who, after calling the fire department, started to put out the flames on their own.

According to the spokesman for the Interior Ministry of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Kazim Baybanov, the fires were caused by flammable materials thrown into the churches through broken windows.

Christian leaders have taken steps to curb possible tensions with the Muslim community. Press and investigators immediately indicated the track of religious extremism, which infests the Russian Caucasus. According to statements by the Archbishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, Feofan, there are no preconditions for talking about religious hatred in the region: "It was a well-orchestrated provocation, but we can not talk about inter-religious enmity, especially between Orthodox Christians and Muslims." "We can not blame Muslims, we can not judge people by individual incidents. Even policemen and muftis are killed and the attack has the same matrix: the intention is to destabilize inter-religious harmony, but they will not succeed", added the Orthodox bishop.

Almost to prove his words, news of the assassination of the imam of a mosque in Khasavyurt, in the Republic of Dagestan, with a gunshot to the head, authorities are investigating.

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