Radical Islamic terror group takes credit for fatal shooting during Catholic Mass in Istanbul – LifeSite

ISTANBUL, Turkey (LifeSiteNews) — A man was killed during Holy Mass in Istanbul on Sunday. The radical Islamic terror group ISIS claimed credit for the attack.

Turkish national Tuncer Cihan, a 52-year-old who is not Catholic, was shot and killed during Holy Mass in Santa Maria Church on Sunday when two masked men opened fire during the consecration, killing Cihan and sparking terror inside the church. According to the Associated Press, the “[p]ews and walls were peppered with bullet holes” and, on as of Monday, “a bouquet was left where Cihan was killed.”

Santa Maria Church attorney Avsin Hatipoglu said in remarks to the AP that the murdered man was Alevi, a Turkish sect whose members claim to be Muslim but are rejected by many mainstream followers of Muhammed.

On Sunday evening, ISIS claimed credit for the shooting via its media outlet Aamaq, asserting that ISIS-affiliated individuals had “attacked a gathering of Christian unbelievers [sic] during their polytheistic ceremony [sic],” the AP reported.

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Turkish Minister of the Interior Ali Yerlikaya said Sunday that the suspects had been apprehended and that the government “strongly condemn[s] this vile attack.”

During a news briefing, Yerlikaya said that “both of the suspects are foreign nationals. One of them is from Tajikistan and the other is Russian, and we evaluated them to be with the Islamic State.”

“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, as reported by the AP.

He said police have conducted raids of 30 locations and detained some 47 other individuals in connection with the shooting. 

Concern about potential attacks on non-Muslim religious sites in the region predate the Sunday attack. 

Citing Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency, EWTN News reported that the shooting at the Istanbul Catholic church came after more than two dozen suspected members of ISIS were apprehended earlier this month for allegedly “plotting attacks on churches and synagogues.”

Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, the apostolic vicar of Istanbul, called for prayer in remarks to EWTN News. Later, responding to news of the apprehension of the suspects, he said, “[w]e trust in the justice of God.”

Pope Francis also responded to news of the shooting during remarks at the Vatican shortly after the first reports emerged on Sunday, expressing his “sympathy to the community of [Santa Maria Church] in Istanbul, which suffered an armed attack during Mass … “

Masses are set to be held again at Santa Maria Church beginning Thursday. 

News of the shooting at the Istanbul Catholic church comes as conflict between Muslims, Christians, and Jews have once more become the subject of international reports in recent months.

Early last month, four people were killed and dozens injured in the bombing at a Catholic Mass on a university campus in the Philippines on Sunday. As with the shooting at the Catholic church in Istanbul, ISIS militants also took credit for the bombing attack in which at least four people were killed and at least 50 were injured.

READ: ISIS bombing at Catholic Mass in the Philippines leaves at least four dead, dozens wounded

In October, hostilities in a decades-long conflict between the Muslim government of Azerbaijan and a small group of Armenian Christians broke out anew, killing hundreds and forcing nearly all of the roughly 120,000 Christian residents of a region known as Nagorno-Karabakh to flee to Armenia.

And on October 7, Islamic Hamas terrorists invaded Israel from the Gaza Strip, murdering over 1,000 civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, and injuring thousands more. Hundreds of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers were also killed in the blitz, and nearly 250 people were taken hostage, launching the Middle East back into bloody conflict as Israel declared war with the stated intention of eliminating Hamas.

Israel’s allies have also become embroiled in the war. On January 28, three American soldiers were killed in a drone strike in Jordan, the first U.S. troops to lose their lives in combat since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. President Joe Biden has vowed to “respond.”

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