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200 Detained in Russia After Mosque Brawl
(AP, April 11, 2005)

Makhachkala, Russia - A bloody brawl between rival religious groups at a mosque in southern Russia led to the detention of 200 people, authorities said Sunday.

Images broadcast on Russian state-run television showed blood on the floor and walls of the mosque — one of the oldest in Dagestan, the province bordering war-wracked Chechnya.

Religious and law enforcement officials in Dagestan denied earlier reports that fundamentalist Wahhabis were involved in the incident Saturday in the coastal town of Derbent.

Two dozen people, including four police officers, were injured and at least 200 people remained in detention on Sunday, said a spokesman for the regional Interior Ministry.

"It's a controversy within Sunni groups and it is all about the election of a new imam" for the mosque, said Akhmed Tagayev, deputy mufti for Dagestan.

Dagestan, located on the western coast of the Caspian Sea about 1,000 miles south of Moscow, has largely Sunni but has a sizable Shiite minority. Wahhabi is an austere brand of Sunni Islam practiced mostly in Saudi Arabia.

Russia's southern provinces have been plagued by violence, some of it spilling over from war-shattered Chechnya. Dagestan also suffers violence linked to criminal gangs.


Related Sections | Islam | Sectarian Violence