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Five women dead after Russian church shooting

5 killed including gunman in shooting at festival in southern Russia

An unknown gunman opened fire in Dagestan's Kizlyar at Maslenitsa celebration.

Security guards killed the attacker - said to be a local resident born in 1995 - but two of them were wounded in the process.

Christians are a small minority in Dagestan, which is ethnically diverse and over 80 per cent Muslim, according to a 2012 census.

The Russian Health Ministry was cited by Interfax news agency as saying that the death toll has risen to five as an injured woman died in the hospital, and another two injured are in critical conditions.

The church's abbot told the RBC news agency that the attack took place at about 4pm as the service concluded and the congregation began to fan... The gunman, who was carrying a hunting rifle, bullets and a knife, was killed. "I believe God saved us, not allowing the man to get inside the church", the woman told the news outlet.

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Initial reports suggest all five victims of the attack in the town of Kizlyar are women.

Images published by the local press showed the body of a bearded man dressed in military fatigues who was identified as the assailant.

The motive for the shooting is not known.

Dagestan and its neighbor Chechnya have been wracked by separatist and Islamic violence in recent years.

In 2015, Daesh declared it had established a "franchise" in the North Caucasus.

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