A poverty-stricken woman is being hailed as a hero after bravely confronting a terrorist gunman who opened fire at a church in southern Russia earlier this month, the Caucasian Knot reported.
Irina Melkomova, whom authorities believe to be around 60 years old, began shouting and hitting the Islamist attacker with her bags outside St. George the Victorious Church in the town of Kizlyar, before being shot dead.
Four other people, all of whom were women, were murdered on Feb. 18 by a 22-year-old gunman who went on a rampage at the Russian Orthodox church. Witnesses say Melkomova’s actions gave other congregants the chance to lock the church doors, likely saving many lives.
“We had finished the mass and were beginning to leave the church,” Father Pavel Kalikin, the rector of Saint George the Victorious, told Russian news outlet RBK.
“A bearded man ran towards the church shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘God is greatest’) and killed four people. He was carrying a rifle and a knife,” he said.
Kalikin also detailed the woman’s incredible heroics during the horrifying situation.
“All people who were at the temple and on the yard in front of it stayed alive due to our believer Irina Melkomova,” Kalikin told the Caucasian Knot. “While she attracted the killer’s attention, the believers managed to hide inside the temple.”
— DNA (@dna) February 19, 2018
Authorities said that five people, including three police officers who shot 22-year-old Khalil Khalilov dead at the scene, were wounded in the horrific incident.
Cardiologist Lyudmila Scherbakova was killed in the attack, along with her sister, Vera Morgunova, a local community leader. Both died at the scene, alongside parishioners Nadezhda Terliyan and Irina Melkomova.
The fifth woman killed in the terror attack was Vera Blinnikova, 60, who died during surgery after being shot in the chest.
“These were all good people,” Priest Ioann Anisimov said, according to Daily Mail.
— Toronto Sun (@TheTorontoSun) February 20, 2018
Anisimov confirmed the identities of those killed, noting that Ms. Melkomova was “begging for money on the doorstep” when the attack occurred.
The Islamic State has now claimed responsibility for the shooting. On the Monday following the attack, a post on an IS-affiliated militant website reported that a Muslim fighter attacked “a Christian temple” in Kizlyar.
Police have arrested three people in connection with the attack, including a 19-year-old man named Magometrasul Gadjiev.
When police stormed the home of Khalilov, they discovered an Islamic State flag hanging on the wall and footage of the gunman pledging allegiance to Islamic extremists.
Father Alexander Volkov told Daily Mail that the shooting on the eve of Orthodox Lent was “a provocation aimed at starting a counteraction between Orthodox and Muslim people who have lived in peace for centuries in the Caucasus.”
Dagestan, where the attack occurred, is a highly volatile region in Russia located between the Russian republic of Chechnya and the Caspian Sea. Following two brutal separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya, an Islamic insurgency spread into Dagestan. Join us in praying for peace in the region.