By BBC WorldNews –
Two gunmen attacked a Catholic church in Istanbul, turning morning mass into a scene of terror and killing one man.
The shooting happened at the Church of Santa Maria during Sunday mass at around 11:40 local time (08:40 GMT).
Turkey’s interior minister condemned the “vile attack” and said an investigation has been launched. Police are still searching for the suspects.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a post on Telegram the group said two of its fighters had carried out the attack and then fled to safety.
CCTV released by Turkish media shows the moment of the attack. Worshippers were on their feet, facing the altar, when two gunmen came into the back of the church.
They appeared to be following a man who had just come in. After he was shot and fatally wounded, the gunmen calmly left.
The 19th Century church sits behind high walls, close to a small fish market, by the Bosphorus on the European side of Istanbul. The streets around it have been closed off by police.
Inside the church, investigators took statements from those who were there when the attackers struck.
The Turkish Interior Minister, Ali Yerlikaya, who visited the scene said that an individual identified only as CT had died in the attack.
Speaking to reporters outside the church, Istanbul governor Davut Gul said the victim was a Turkish national and that no one else was hurt. He said the attackers only fired at one person.
It was not immediately clear what the motive for the attack was or why the victim was targeted.
The uncle of the dead man told local media the victim was 52 years old and about to become a Christian, but was not baptised yet. Another relative said he was mentally ill, and insisted that he was not the target of the attack.
In a post on X, mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu said: “We will never allow those who try to disrupt our unity and peace by attacking the places of faith in our city.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed condolences over the attack and said that “necessary steps” were being taken to hunt down the killers, who he predicted would be found “within 24 hours”.
The Pope offered his support, expressing his “closeness to the community of the Santa Maria church” at the end of his weekly prayer at the Vatican.
Attacks like this on Turkey’s Christian minority are rare. The local mayor said Muslims and Christians lived in harmony in the area, and that there was a real sense of shock among the community.