From Le Figaro with AFP
Published yesterday at 10:37 p.m., updated yesterday at 11:36 p.m.
The two attackers were arrested while trying to escape. DILARA SENKAYA / Portal
On Sunday in Istanbul, a man was killed during a service at an Italian Catholic church by two masked attackers who opened fire and were eventually arrested by Turkish police. The Islamic State terrorist militia claimed responsibility for the attack via the social network Telegram.
Turkish authorities had previously said the attack appeared to target a specific individual and not the Santa Maria church in the Sariyer district on Istanbul's European side. The victim, who attended the celebration and was initially identified by his initials C.T, was named Tuncer Cihan, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on Sunday evening.
The two attackers were arrested while attempting to escape, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced in the evening. Surveillance camera footage before the attack shows two men wearing black masks and with their hands in their pockets. One of them has sunglasses.
According to local officials, about 40 people attended the mass, including the Polish consul general in Istanbul, Witold Lesniak, and his family. The attack occurred around 11:40 a.m. local time (08:40 GMT). “After the second shot, the weapon stopped working, so the attackers fled. At this point everyone was on the ground. There were between 35 and 40 people inside,” the neighborhood’s mayor, Sukru Genc, told the press. According to Istanbul Governor Davut Gül, no one was injured in the attack.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously assured that the “necessary measures” had been taken to arrest the attackers, whose motive remained unknown. From Rome, Pope Francis expressed his “closeness” to the community of this church. “We condemn this despicable attack in the strongest possible terms,” he added. The Italian Foreign Minister also expressed his “condolences” and “strong condemnation.”
The attack comes more than a week after a meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Istanbul. “Our security forces are conducting a comprehensive investigation into this case,” said Omer Celik, spokesman for the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party). “Those who threaten the peace and security of our citizens will never achieve their goals.” The city's popular mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, said: “We will never welcome into our city those who undermine our unity and peace by attacking places of worship endanger.”
In December, Turkish security forces arrested 32 suspects, suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, who were suspected of plotting attacks on synagogues, churches and the Iraqi embassy. The arrests took place in nine different cities, including Istanbul and the capital Ankara. ISIS has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks in Turkey, including one on January 1, 2017 at a nightclub in Istanbul that killed 39 people.