Monday 29 January 2024

Islamic State claims responsibility over Istanbul church attack

 Screengrab of attack in process

The so-called Islamic State group (IS) has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Roman Catholic church in Istanbul during Sunday Mass that killed one person.

The extremist group said it “attacked a gathering of Christian unbelievers during their polytheistic ceremony” inside the Santa Maria Church in the Buyukdere area in Istanbul on Sunday.

Interior minister Ali Yerlikaya said that two men he described as members of IS had been arrested over the attack. One of the suspects is from Tajikistan, and the other from Russia.

The statement claiming responsibility was published on Aamaq, the media arm of the militant group, along with photos of two masked men holding guns whom it identified as the attackers.

It described the attack as killing one person and wounding another, while Turkish authorities said no-one was injured besides the person killed.

Mr Yerlikaya said police had raided 30 locations and detained a total of 47 people as part of the investigation into the attack.

He said: “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.”

DHA, a private news agency, reported that 51 people were detained during the police raids, including 23 who were sent to holding centres awaiting deportation.

It also said the two suspects drove a car brought from Poland to Istanbul a year ago which had been never used until the day of the shooting. The attackers panicked and ran away after the weapon jammed, it said.

Istanbul police did not immediately respond to a request for information.

On January 3 this year, 25 suspected IS members were arrested across Turkey, accused of plotting attacks on churches and synagogues, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

IS has not previously targeted places of worship in Turkey, but the militant group has carried out a string of deadly attacks in the country, including a shooting at an Istanbul night club in 2017 that killed 39 people, and a 2015 bombing attack in Ankara that killed 109.