MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP) — A rabbi was shot and gravely wounded Thursday by an unidentified gunman in Russia's predominantly Muslim province of Dagestan in what officials described as a hate crime.
Ovadia Isakov, 40, was attacked late Wednesday as he left his car and was walking home in Derbent, a city on the Caspian Sea, said Rasul Temirbekov, spokesman for the regional branch of Russia's Investigative Committee.
The rabbi has been taken to an intensive care unit at a local hospital where doctors are trying to save his life, Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, said in a statement. He said that a medical plane with a team of doctors will arrive shortly from Israel to help treat him.
"We are calling on the law-enforcement agencies to not only track down and punish those who planned and conducted this attack, but also take the necessary legal action to destroy the Jihadi rebels," Lazar said. "There can be no compromise with terrorists."
Dagestan has become the epicenter of an Islamic rebellion that has spread across Russia's North Caucasus region after two separatist wars in Chechnya. Militants seeking to carve out an independent Islamic state mount near daily raids on police and officials. They have also targeted Muslim clerics they considered their foes.
Last August, Said Afandi, a prominent Muslim religious leader who criticized the radical Wahhabi sect at the core of the insurgency, was killed in a suicide bombing.
"The attack on the rabbi, just as earlier attacks on Muslim leaders, was aimed at destabilizing our society and undermining the noble foundation on which the unity of our state has been built for centuries," Lazar said.
Most of Dagestan's Jews left the region during the post-Soviet economic and political turmoil. Only between 2,000 and 3,000 are left in the province wedged between Chechnya and the Caspian Sea.
Derbent, which claims to be the oldest city in Russia and has archaeological heritage over 5,000 years old, is a multi-ethnic city that has remained relatively untouched by the Muslim insurgency.
Dagestan's president, Ramazan Abdulatipov, condemned the attack and said that perpetrators of hate crimes "have no place in Dagestani society."