Web Stories Friday, March 1
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  • Two masked assailants, allegedly members of the Islamic State group, attacked a Roman Catholic church in Istanbul during Sunday mass, killing one person.
  • The weapons used in the attack remain unspecified, and the victim has only been identified as a 52-year-old with the initials “C.T.”
  • Authorities in Ankara have issued a media ban on attack coverage.

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., Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said in a statement on the X platform. He didn’t specify what kind of weapons were used or whether anyone was wounded.

Turkish authorities didn’t formally identify the victim, but local media said the person killed had the initials C.T. and was 52 years old.

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Hours later, Yerlikaya announced that two men he described as members of the Islamic State extremist movement had been arrested as the suspected attackers. One of the supects is from Tajikistan and the other from Russia, he said at a news conference just after midnight.

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

“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,” Yerlikaya said.

A short video circulating on social media apparently shows 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 flee.

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

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 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 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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