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Death toll from attack in Russia's Dagestan reaches 21

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Death toll from attack in Russia's Dagestan reaches 21
News

News

Death toll from attack in Russia's Dagestan reaches 21

2024-06-25 17:39 Last Updated At:17:40

MOSCOW (AP) — The death toll in the attack by Islamic militants in Russia's southern region of Dagestan has risen to 21 after a wounded police officer has died in a hospital, officials said Tuesday.

Sunday's attack, in which militants attacked Christian and Jewish houses of worship and fired at police in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala in the predominantly Muslim region in the North Caucasus, was the deadliest in Russia since March, when gunmen opened fire at a concert in suburban Moscow, killing 145 people.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, which claimed responsibility for March’s raid, was quick to praise the attack in Dagestan, saying it was conducted by “brothers in the Caucasus who showed that they are still strong.”

The Investigative Committee, Russia's top state criminal investigation agency, said all five attackers were killed.

Mavsum Ragimov, head of the Derbent region, said Tuesday that a police sergeant died of his wounds in a hospital, bringing the total number of victims to 21, 16 of them police.

Medical authorities in Dagestan said Monday at least 46 people were injured, 13 of them police.

Among the dead was the Rev. Nikolai Kotelnikov, a 66-year-old Russian Orthodox priest at a church in Derbent. The attack came as the Orthodox faithful celebrated Pentecost, also known as Trinity Sunday.

In the early 2000s, Dagestan saw near-daily attacks on police and other authorities that were blamed on militant extremists. After the emergence of the Islamic State group, many residents of the region joined it in Syria and Iraq.

The violence in Dagestan has abated in recent years, but in a sign that extremist sentiments still run high in the region, mobs rioted at an airport there in October, targeting a flight from Israel. More than 20 people were hurt — none of them Israelis — when hundreds of men, some carrying banners with antisemitic slogans, rushed onto the tarmac, chased passengers and threw stones at police.

In this photo taken from video released by The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia on Monday, June 24, 2024, a damaged Star of David is seen on the wall of the the Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. Multiple police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. (The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia on Monday, June 24, 2024, a damaged Star of David is seen on the wall of the the Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. Multiple police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. (The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by Russian Investigative Committee on Monday, June 24, 2024, a Russian Investigative Committee employee works inside a damaged by armed militants Orthodox Church in Makhachkala after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. Multiple police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. (Russian Investigative Committee via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by Russian Investigative Committee on Monday, June 24, 2024, a Russian Investigative Committee employee works inside a damaged by armed militants Orthodox Church in Makhachkala after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. Multiple police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. (Russian Investigative Committee via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia on Monday, June 24, 2024, a view of the damaged Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. Multiple police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. (The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia on Monday, June 24, 2024, a view of the damaged Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. Multiple police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. (The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia on Monday, June 24, 2024, an internal view of the damaged Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent is seen after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. Multiple police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. (The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia on Monday, June 24, 2024, an internal view of the damaged Kele-Numaz synagogue in Derbent is seen after a counter-terrorist operation in republic of Dagestan, Russia. Multiple police officers and several civilians, including an Orthodox priest, were killed by armed militants in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan on Sunday, its governor Sergei Melikov said in a video statement early Monday. (The Telegram Channel of the head of Dagestan Republic of Russia via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The 20-year-old man who tried to assassinate former President Donald Trump first came to law enforcement’s attention at Saturday's rally when spectators noticed him acting strangely outside the campaign event. The tip sparked a frantic search but officers were unable to find him before he managed to get on a roof, where he opened fire.

In the wake of the shooting that killed one spectator, investigators were hunting for any clues about what may have drove Thomas Matthew Crooks, of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, to carry out the shocking attack. The FBI said they were investigating it as a potential act of domestic terrorism, but the absence of a clear ideological motive by the man shot dead by Secret Service led conspiracy theories to flourish.

“I urge everyone — everyone, please, don’t make assumptions about his motives or his affiliations," President Joe Biden said in remarks Sunday from the White House. “Let the FBI do their job, and their partner agencies do their job. I’ve instructed that this investigation be thorough and swift.”

The FBI said it believes Crooks, who had bomb-making materials in the car he drove to the rally, acted alone. Investigators have found no threatening comments on social media accounts or ideological positions that could help explain what led him to target Trump before Secret Service rushed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee off the stage, his face smeared with blood.

Trump said on social media the upper part of his right ear was pierced in the shooting, but advisers said he was “great spirits" ahead of his arrival Sunday in Milwaukee for the Republican National Convention. Two spectators were critically injured, while a former fire chief from the area, Corey Comperatore was killed. Pennsylvania's governor said Comperatore, 50, died a hero by diving onto his family to protect them.

Relatives of Crooks didn’t respond to numerous messages from The Associated Press. His father, Matthew Crooks, told CNN late Saturday that he was trying to figure out “what the hell is going on” but wouldn’t speak about his son until after he talked to law enforcement. An FBI official told reporters that Crooks' family is cooperating with investigators.

Several rallygoers reported to local officers that Crooks was acting suspiciously and pacing near the magnetometers, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation. Officers were then told Crooks was climbing a ladder, the official said. Officers searched for him but were unable to find him before he made it to the roof, the official added.

Butler County Sheriff Michael Slupe told the AP that a local officer climbed to the roof and encountered Crooks, who saw the officer and turned toward him just before the officer dropped down to safety. Slupe said the officer couldn’t have wielded his own gun under the circumstances. The officer retreated down the ladder, and Crooks quickly took a shot toward Trump, and that’s when Secret Service snipers shot him, according to two officials who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

FBI officials said Sunday that they were combing Crooks' background and social media activities while working to get access to his phone. The chatting app Discord, a social media platform popular with people playing online games, said Crooks appears to have had an account but used it rarely and not in the last several months. There's no evidence he used his account to promote violence or discuss his political views, a Discord spokesperson said.

Crooks’ political leanings were not immediately clear. Records show Crooks was registered as a Republican voter in Pennsylvania, but federal campaign finance reports also show he gave $15 to a progressive political action committee on Jan. 20, 2021, the day Biden was sworn into office.

Crooks graduated from Bethel Park High School in 2022. In a video of the school’s graduation ceremony posted online, Crooks can be seen crossing the stage to receive his diploma, appearing slight of build and wearing glasses. The school district said it will cooperate fully with investigators. His senior year, Crooks was among several students given an award for math and science, according to a Tribune-Review story at the time.

Crooks tried out for the school's rifle team but was turned away because he was a bad shooter, said Frederick Mach, a current captain of the team who was a few years behind Crooks at the school.

Jason Kohler, who said he attended the same high school but did not share any classes with Crooks, said Crooks was bullied at school and sat alone at lunch time. Other students mocked him for the clothes he wore, which included hunting outfits, Kohler said.

“He was bullied almost every day,” Kohler told reporters. “He was just a outcast, and you know how kids are nowadays.”

Crooks worked at a nursing home as a dietary aide, a job that generally involves food preparation. Marcie Grimm, the administrator of Bethel Park Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, said in a statement she was “shocked and saddened to learn of his involvement.” Grimm added that Crooks had a clean background check when he was hired.

A blockade had been set up Sunday preventing traffic near Crooks’ house, which is in an enclave of modest brick houses in the hills outside Pittsburgh and about an hour's drive from the site of the Trump rally. Police cars were stationed at an intersection near the house and officers were seen walking through the neighborhood.

Crooks used an AR-style rifle, which authorities said they believe was purchased by his father. Kevin Rojek, FBI special agent in charge in Pittsburgh, said that investigators do not yet know if he took the gun without his father's permission.

A video posted to social media and geolocated by AP shows Crooks wearing a gray t-shirt with a black American flag on the right arm lying motionless on the roof of a manufacturing plant just north of the Butler Farm Show grounds where Trump’s rally was held.

The roof where Crooks lay was less than 150 meters (164 yards) from where Trump was speaking, a distance from which a decent marksman could reasonably hit a human-sized target. That is a distance at which U.S. Army recruits must hit a scaled human-sized silhouette to qualify with the M-16 rifle.

Images of Crooks’ body reviewed by AP show he appears to have been wearing a T-shirt from Demolition Ranch, a popular YouTube channel that regularly posts videos of its creator firing off handguns and assault rifles at targets that include human mannequins.

Matt Carriker, the Texas-based creator of Demolition Ranch, did not respond to a phone message or email on Sunday, but posted a photo of Crooks' bloody corpse wearing his brand's T-shirt on social media with the comment “What the hell.”

Mustian reported from New York and Balsamo reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Julie Smyth and Joshua Bickel in Bethel Park, Michael R. Sisak and Randy Herschaft in New York, Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Colleen Long and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

This 2021 photo provided by Bethel Park School District shows student Thomas Matthew Crooks who graduated from Bethel Park High School with the Class of 2022, in Bethel Park, Pa. Crooks was identified by the FBI as the shooter involved in an assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally on Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (Bethel Park School District via AP)

This 2021 photo provided by Bethel Park School District shows student Thomas Matthew Crooks who graduated from Bethel Park High School with the Class of 2022, in Bethel Park, Pa. Crooks was identified by the FBI as the shooter involved in an assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally on Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (Bethel Park School District via AP)

This June 3, 2022 still image taken from video provided by the Bethel Park School District shows student Thomas Matthew Crooks in the 2022 Bethel Park High School Commencement in Bethel Park, Pa. (The Bethel Park School District via AP)

This June 3, 2022 still image taken from video provided by the Bethel Park School District shows student Thomas Matthew Crooks in the 2022 Bethel Park High School Commencement in Bethel Park, Pa. (The Bethel Park School District via AP)

A campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty and littered with debris Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty and littered with debris Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Law enforcement block a street in Bethel Park, Pa., that they say is near a residence of Thomas Matthew Crooks, the suspected shooter of former President Donald Trump, Sunday, July 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

Law enforcement block a street in Bethel Park, Pa., that they say is near a residence of Thomas Matthew Crooks, the suspected shooter of former President Donald Trump, Sunday, July 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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