Authorities hunt gunmen after one killed in Istanbul church attack

Shooting took place during service at Santa Maria Catholic church

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Turkish authorities are hunting for masked gunmen who killed one person and wounded several others during a church service in Istanbul.

The shooting occurred at the Santa Maria Church in Istanbul’s Sariyer district, Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerkilaya said in a post on social media.

The gunmen were reportedly wearing ski masks when they fired on the worshippers, killing a member of the congregation, identified only as C.T.

Mr Yerkilaya condemned the “vile” attack and said authorities are looking for the perpetrators.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The suspects fled the scene on foot, Turkish media reported.

Turkey's broadcasting authority later imposed a reporting ban on the incident, a common move by Ankara following terror attacks.

Pope Francis expressed his support for the victims during his Sunday address at the Vatican.

"I express my closeness to the community of the Santa Maria Draperis Church in Istanbul," the pontiff said.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani also condemned the "cowardly" attack and said Rome is following up with its diplomatic representations in Turkey.

“We will never allow those who try to destroy our unity and peace by attacking the religious places of our city,” said Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.

“These vile attacks, which target our centuries-old law of brotherhood and our will to live together, will never reach their target,” added Murat Kurum, an Istanbul politician from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Party spokesman Omer Celik said security forces "are conducting a large-scale investigation into the matter."

“Those who threaten the peace and security of our citizens will never achieve their goals.”

In December, Turkish security forces detained 32 suspects, allegedly linked with ISIS, and accused of planning attacks on churches, synagogues, and the Iraqi embassy.

About 500 people were killed in a campaign of terror attacks from 2015 to 2017 that hit major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.

The bombings were mostly attributed to ISIS and Kurdish militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK).

Six people were killed in the most recent attack on the busy Istiklal Avenue in November 2022.

In 2017, an attack on an Istanbul nightclub left 39 people dead.

Updated: January 29, 2024, 5:57 AM