Horrifying moment masked gunmen storm church and open fire – leaving one dead as cops arrest two ‘ISIS members’

Horrifying moment masked gunmen storm church and open fire – leaving one dead as cops arrest two ‘ISIS members’

THIS is the horrifying moment masked gunmen alleged to be ISIS members stormed a church and opened fire – leaving one dead.

The two thugs were caught on CCTV stalking through a garage before opening fire at unsuspecting church-goers attending a Sunday service around 11.40am on Sunday morning in Turkey.

Horrifying moment masked gunmen storm church and open fire – leaving one dead as cops arrest two ‘ISIS members’
The two gunmen were caught on CCTV walking through a garage calmly with their hands hidden before the attack
Security footage from inside the church shows people attending the Sunday service
Just moments later, everyone immediately drops to their knees after a gunshot was fired by the masked men at the back of the room
AFP

Emergency services cram the streets near the church attack[/caption]

The horror attack took place at the Italian-run Santa Maria Church in Istanbul, Turkish officials have said.

The attackers stormed the building in black ski masks, unleashing bullets as attendees threw themselves to the ground.

One man died after he was shot in the head and more were injured.

The deceased individual has been identified as Tuncer Cihan, a 52-year-old Turkish citizen, whose death was confirmed by his nephew.

It was initially reported that the two gunmen had escaped but counter-terrorism soon confirmed that one man had been arrested in connection with the attack.

Later on Sunday, however, Turkish minister Ali Yerlikaya confirmed on X/Twitter that both gunmen had been captured by authorities.

He said: “The two murder suspects who caused the death of our citizen Tuncer Cihan during the Sunday service at the Santa Maria Church in Sariyer this morning have been captured.”

“I congratulate our Istanbul Police and heroic police officers who identified and caught the perpetrators.”

Mr Yerlikaya had previously confirmed that a ” large-scale investigation into the issue and efforts to catch the attackers have been initiated.”

It wasn’t immediately clear why the gunmen opened fire at the church or whether they were associated with a particular group.

Turkish officials said it looked like a targeted attack by the two gunmen against Tuncer, rather than against the Catholic church itself.

But the Islamic State have since 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.

Footage shared on X/Twitter by 23 Degrees shows the masked shooters walking through a car park on CCTV before the rampage.

The pair walk calmly with their hands in their pockets in the eerie footage – as one checks the garage behind them.

Security footage from inside the church then captures the masked men entering the building and shooting the man who was walking in front of them, before leaving almost immediately afterwards.

Local officials said around 40 people attended the mass but suggested the total amount of casualties could have been higher.

“After the second shot, the gun didn’t work, then they [attackers] ran,” Sariyer district’s mayor Sukru Genc told reporters.

“At this moment, everyone lied on the floor. There were around 35 to 40 people inside.”

Genc also noted that among the attendees was Polish Consul General Witold Lesniak and his family, who were all unharmed in the attack.

The church is run by an Italian order of Franciscan friars.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said that 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.

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

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu also wrote: “We will never allow those who try to destroy our unity and peace by attacking the religious places of our city”.

The victims nephew, who identified his body, told the Associated Press that he believed the gunmen had targeted the church, as his uncle had “no connection to politics or (criminal) organisations”.

He added that his uncle had been invited to attend the church “and was a victim of fate”.

It’s not the first shooting to take place at a religious building in Istanbul.

In 2017, a gunman opened fire inside an Istanbul mosque just hours after a horror mass shooting in a nightclub also in the city.

Two people were injured and rushed to hospital after the man opened fire with a rifle when people were gathering at north Istanbul’s Hasan Pasha Mosque for prayer.

The shooting came after a terrorist dressed as Santa gunned down New Year’s Eve revellers at the Reina nightclub in the city.

The attacker — who may have had an accomplice —  shot and killed a police officer outside the venue before forcing his way inside to go on his bloody rampage.

Around 600 people had been inside the club at the time of the attack on January 1, 2017.

The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the ambush which killed 39 people and injured 79 others.

AFP

Worried onlookers and press gather outside the church following the ambush[/caption]

EPA

Turkish police forces cordon off the site next to the Santa Maria Church[/caption]

One of the masked gunmen checks behind him as they walk through the garage
Reuters

Police forensic experts examine the area near the Italian Santa Maria Catholic Church[/caption]

Santa Maria Church in Istanbul where the attack took place
Worried onlookers crowd around the entrance of the church

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