World News

Islamic State claims responsibility for attack on church in Istanbul

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The terrorist organisation declared its responsibility for attacking "a gathering of Christian unbelievers during their polytheistic ceremony" at the Santa Maria Catholic church on Sunday.

A mentally disabled man, 52 year-old Tuncer Cihan was shot dead in the assault. The church’s lawyer, Avsin Hatipoglu, said that the victim was not even a Christian but Alevi, a sect of Shia Islam. Sukru Genc, the mayor of Sariyer District, saw Cihan standing near the doorway to the church when the ambush happened: “According to the priest, he was constantly going to church, and the priest knew this person and referred to him as a good person”. Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, the apostolic vicar of Istanbul, said: “We are worried about the future because if this is a sign of the religious intolerance, for our community, it could be a bad sign. Let us pray”. 

Reuters provided video footage that showed how masked gunmen had opened fire during the Sunday Mass. The terrorist group posted a statement claiming responsibility for the attack. 

Turkey’s interior minister Ali Yerlikaya confirmed that two men, one from Russia and one from Tajikistan who are believed to be members of Islamic State, had been arrested. Police raided more than 30 locations and arrested several suspects. 

Mr Yerlikaya stated: “We will never tolerate those who try to disrupt the peace of our country – terrorists, their collaborators, both national and international criminal groups, and those who aim at our unity and solidarity”. 

Archbishop Martin Kmetec of Izmir said: “We firmly condemn this act of violence against humanity. We trust that the Turkish state security forces will find those responsible and that justice will be done. We firmly demand that the truth be revealed and that greater security be guaranteed to our communities and churches.”

Pope Francis also sent his condolences: “I express my closeness to the community of the Church of St. Mary Draperis in Istanbul, which suffered an armed attack during Mass that killed one person and injured several others.”

Since last June, 2,086 suspects related to the Islamic State have been detained, 529 of them have been arrested. Police took 25 people into custody on the 3rd of January this year. They have been charged with plotting attacks against churches and synagogues. 



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