Two Masked Attackers Kill 1 in Shooting at Istanbul Church


Two masked attackers shot and killed one person during a church service on Sunday in Istanbul, Turkish officials said. The motive was not immediately clear.

The attack took place around 11:40 a.m. at the Santa Maria church, an Italian Catholic church in the Sariyer district of Istanbul, the interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya, wrote on the social media platform X. Mr. Yerlikaya gave only the victim’s initials, C.T., and said that an investigation into the shooting was underway and that the authorities were looking for the assailants.

“Such provocations will never be allowed in our country,” Akif Cagatay Kilic, a top adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, wrote on X. “The perpetrators will be caught as soon as possible and held accountable before justice.”

The government-appointed governor of Istanbul, Davut Gul, said in televised remarks at the scene that the victim was a 52-year-old Turkish citizen.

“Two masked assailants went in, shot at someone and that person was killed,” Mr. Gul said.

According to The Associated Press, the victim’s nephew identified him as Tuncer Cihan, who he said was mentally disabled. The A.P. reported that Mr. Cihan said the target of the shooting was the church, not his uncle, who had “no connection to politics or (criminal) organizations.” He added that his uncle had been invited to attend the church “and was a victim of fate.”

Among the crowd at the church was the Polish consul in Istanbul, Witold Lesniak, with his wife and two of his children.

‘‘We will find the perpetrators sooner or later, maybe within 24 hours,’’ Mr. Erdogan said in a phone call to Mr. Lesniak and to the church’s priest, Anton Bulai, according to a video of the phone call that was released by the president’s director of communications.

Pope Francis expressed sympathy for the Santa Maria church community on Sunday, and Italy’s foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, stated his “sorrow and firm condemnation” of the killing in a post on X.

Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, wrote on X, “We will never allow those who try to destroy our unity and peace by attacking the religious places of our city.”

The authorities did not provide further details about the attack or about whether the assailants were suspected of links to any terrorist group.

In recent decades, Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country with a secular state system, has witnessed several attacks against Christian communities.

In 2007, a prominent Turkish Armenian journalist, part of the small Christian community in Turkey, was assassinated in broad daylight as he left his office in central Istanbul. That same year, three employees of an evangelist publishing house were found with their throats slit inside their offices. In 2006, an Italian priest was shot to death in the northern province of Zonguldak, and in 2007 another Italian priest was stabbed in Izmir.

Last month, Turkey arrested three people suspected of belonging to the Islamic State terrorist organization who, it said, were planning to attack churches, synagogues and the Iraqi Embassy in the country, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Also arrested were 29 other people connected to the alleged plotters were also arrested, the news agency reported. .

The Islamic State has been linked to several attacks in Turkey in recent years, including a massacre at a nightclub in Istanbul in 2017, when a lone gunman killed dozens of people during New Year’s celebrations.





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