2 Masked Assailants Attack a Roman Catholic Church in Istanbul and Kill 1 Person

ISTANBUL (AP) — Two masked assailants attacked a Roman Catholic church in Istanbul during a Sunday Mass, killing one person, Turkish officials said.

The armed assailants attacked the Santa Maria Church in the Sariyer district at 11:40 a.m. (0840 GMT or 3:30 a.m. EST), Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. He didn’t specify what kind of weapons were used or whether anyone else was wounded.

Turkish authorities haven’t formally identified the victim, but local media say the person who was killed had the initials C.T. and was 52 years old.

Yerlikaya condemned the attack and said authorities were working on capturing the assailants. An investigation was opened.

A short video circulating on social media apparently depicts the moment of the attack, with two masked men entering the church and opening fire, with all service-goers hitting the floor. The two men then abruptly leave.

Turkish authorities have instituted a media ban on coverage of the attack.

Sukru Genc, mayor of the Sariyer district where the attack took place, told the Birgun daily newspaper that the gunmen fled when their weapon jammed after having fired two rounds. Genc also noted that among the attendees was Polish Consul General Witold Lesniak and his family, who were all unharmed in the attack.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Lesniak and Santa Maria’s priest, Rev. Anton Bulai, to offer his condolences. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu offered his condolences and support for religious minorities in the city, which like Turkey as a whole is primarily Muslim.

“There are no minorities in this city or this country. We are all actual citizens,” he told reporters.

Pope Francis noted the attack in remarks to the public at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Sunday.

“I express my closeness to the community of (the church) in Istanbul, which during the Mass suffered an armed attack with one dead and some wounded,” the pontiff said.

The church is run by an Italian order of Franciscan friars. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said that his ministry was following the situation along with the Italian Embassy in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, and the consulate in Istanbul.

“I express my condolence and firm condemnation for the vile attack on Santa Maria Church,″ Tajani tweeted. He added that “I am certain that the Turkish authorities will arrest those responsible.”

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