Istanbul Church Attack: ISIS Resurgence Raises Alarms in the Middle East

Farrukh Saif

January 29, 2024

Istanbul-santa Maria Church

The armed attack on the Catholic Church in the Sariyer district of Istanbul during Sunday mass has been claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS.

Turkish authorities have captured two gunmen who killed one person Sunday during a service at a church in Istanbul and who are believed to be tied to Islamic State, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said.

Yerlikaya had earlier said that the attack, which Ankara condemned, took place around 0840 GMT at the Italian Santa Maria Catholic Church in Istanbul’s Sariyer district and that one Turkish citizen – whom the gunmen targeted – was killed while attending the service.

Yerlikaya further stated law and enforcement authorities had carried out raids on more than 30 locations across Istanbul and detained 47 people until now. The suspects were captured in one of the last raids, he said.

“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 Islamic State,” he stated.

Earlier, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on Telegram, saying it was in response to a call by the group’s leaders to target Jews and Christians.

CCTV footage from inside the church,  which is viral on the social media app X, showed the masked gunmen entering the building and shooting the man who was walking in front of them. The CCTV footage shows the men leaving almost immediately afterward.

President Tayyip Erdogan called the church’s priest to offer his condolences and support. Further, the video call was published by the president’s office.

Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni said on X that Italy’s foreign ministry was following updates on the “despicable act” and condemned it.

Pope Francis conveyed his condolences over the attack after his weekly Angelus prayer.

“I express my closeness to the community of Saint Mary Draperis Church in Istanbul that suffered an armed attack during mass that caused one death,” he said.

This is an alarming situation as terrorist groups like ISIS are reactivating their activities in the Middle Eastern region, which could potentially escalate tensions and create more havoc. Their explicit targeting of Christians and Jews adds a concerning dimension to the threat, posing a risk to regional stability. The international community must remain vigilant and collaborate to address the resurgence of such extremist activities.

Farrukh Saif

Farrukh H. Saif, a courageous Christian human rights activist, established the Farrukh Saif Foundation in 2009 to confront religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, and bonded slavery in Pakistan. His dedication to liberating bonded laborers from brick kilns and advocating for blasphemy victims and asylum seekers has garnered international acclaim. Despite encountering threats and fatwas, his impactful work persists in supporting marginalized communities. In 2018, the foundation merged with The Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved, enhancing its global outreach.

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