ISTANBUL (AP) — The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Roman Catholic church in Istanbul during a Sunday Mass that killed one person, in a statement issued late Sunday.
The extremist group said that it “attacked a gathering of Christian unbelievers during their polytheistic ceremony” inside the Santa Maria Church in the Buyukdere neighborhood in Istanbul on Sunday.
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said shortly before midnight that two men he described as members of the Islamic State extremist movement had been arrested for the attack. One of the suspects is from Tajikistan, and the other from Russia.
The statement claiming responsibility was published on Aamaq, the media arm of the militant group, along with photos of two masked men holding guns whom it identified as the attackers.
It described the attack as killing one person and wounding another, while Turkish authorities said no one was injured besides the person killed.
Yerlikaya said police had raided 30 locations and detained a total of 47 people as part of the investigation into the attack.
“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.
On Jan. 3 this year, 25 suspected Islamic State members were arrested across Turkey, accused of plotting attacks on churches and synagogues, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.
The Islamic State has not previously targeted places of worship in Turkey, but the militant group has carried out a string of deadly attacks in the country, including a shooting at an Istanbul night club in 2017 that killed 39 people, and a 2015 bombing attack in Ankara that killed 109.
Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.
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