Lone victim of ISIS-claimed Istanbul church shooting was a Muslim, says local official

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The lone victim of Sunday’s ISIS-claimed shooting at the Santa Maria Catholic Church in Istanbul was a Muslim, according to a local official.

Sukru Genc, mayor of the Sariyer district where the church is located, told Turkish independent newspaper BirGün that the man was by the entrance to the church at the time of the attack, which saw two masked gunmen open fire during Sunday service.

“During the attack, a citizen from Bayburt at the entrance, a Muslim citizen, lost his life,” said the mayor. Turkey’s interior minister Ali Yerlikaya identified the man as Tuncer Murat Cihan in a post on X.

“According to the priest, he was constantly going to church and the priest knew this person and referred to him as ‘a good person,’” added Genc.

The priest who was leading mass at the time said one of the attackers’ guns had jammed, according to Genc.

“When the first gun went off, everyone threw themselves on the ground. After the second explosion, the gun jammed and they [the attackers] came out. It is unknown what would happen next, whether the attack would continue,’” Genc told BirGün.

Genc said around 35 to 40 people were inside the church at the time, including the Polish Consul General in Istanbul, Witold Lesniak, who was there with his children.

“Nothing happened to them because they were in the front, but their children and everyone at the service were seriously affected,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office posted a video on X, showing part of his call with Lesniak.

“I would be grateful if you would convey my condolences to the entire community,” Erdogan says in the video.

The man was the only person to die in the attack. There were no further injuries, according to Istanbul Governor Davut Gul.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a shooting, according to a statement from the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency, citing a security source from the terror group.

At least 47 suspects have been arrested, according to Turkish state news agency Anadalou, citing Yerlikaya.

Two of the arrested suspects are believed to be affiliated with ISIS, reports Anadalou, which reports that one is from Tajikistan and the other is from Russia, citing Yerlikaya.

The attack appears to be the first ISIS attack in Turkey since 2017, when 39 people were killed at a nightclub on New Year’s Eve.

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