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Masked gunmen kill worshipper in Istanbul church during Sunday service, shooting victim in head

Turkish forensic police officers walk near Santa Maria church (Afp/AFP via Getty Images)
Turkish forensic police officers walk near Santa Maria church (Afp/AFP via Getty Images)

A worshipper has died after masked gunmen shot the victim in the head inside a church in Turkish city Istanbul.

The two assailants burst into Santa Maria Church in the Sariyer district at around 11.40am, local time. Authorities said the pair escaped after the attack.

Turkish broadcaster T24 confirmed reports that one died but no other injuries were reported as other congregation members threw themselves to the ground.

No apparent motive has been established for the shooting.

Turkey's interior minister Ali Yerlikaya tweeted: “A large-scale investigation into the issue and efforts to catch the attackers have been initiated. We strongly condemn this vile attack.”

A cross on top of the Italian Santa Maria Catholic Church (REUTERS)
A cross on top of the Italian Santa Maria Catholic Church (REUTERS)

Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu offered his condolences and support for religious minorities in the city, which, like Turkey, as a whole is primarily Muslim.

He added: “We will never allow those who try to destroy our unity and peace by attacking the religious places of our city.

“There are no minorities in this city or this country. We are all actual citizens.”

Santa Maria is run by missionary Franciscan friars from Italy sent on a mission of ecumenical dialogue.

In remarks to the public in St Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Francis noted the attack.

Turkish police officers stand guard a cordoned off area outside Santa Maria church (AP)
Turkish police officers stand guard a cordoned off area outside Santa Maria church (AP)

“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.

Italy's foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, said his ministry is following the situation along with the Italian embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul.

“I express my condolence and firm condemnation for the vile attack on Santa Maria Church,” he wrote on X.

He added: “I am certain that the Turkish authorities will arrest those responsible.”