Two people wearing ski masks on Jan. 28 organized an armed attack and killed 52 year-old Tuncer Murat Cihan on Santa Maria Church in Sarıyer district of Istanbul during Sunday mass.
Istanbul Security Directorate Counter Terrorism branch teams detained a person related to the armed attack later in the day.
The area was blockaded after the attack on the service that started at 11.00 a.m. (local time).
The moment of the attack was recorded by the church camera. According to the footage, two people following Cihan carried out the attack as soon as they entered the church.
Eyewitnesses said that people in the church threw themselves to the ground in panic during the attack. The attackers fled the scene on foot.
After the attack, a large number of police officers were dispatched to the scene and wide security measures were taken in and around the street where the church is located.
Çağın Cihan, the nephew of the 52-year-old man who was killed, said, "He just came there for a visit and it was a coincidence. He was a simple innocent person and definitely an innocent victim. He was retired, and had a slight intellectual disability. He had been going to church on Sundays for the last two months."
Kazım Aydemir, uncle of the victim, said, "He used to come to church with me. He was very popular with the congregation. They killed him for nothing. We are very upset."
Witold Lesniak, Consul General of Poland in Istanbul, and his children were also present at the service.
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced late on the day that both attackers have been caught.
Bu sabah Sarıyer Santa Maria Kilisesinde Pazar ayini sırasında Tuncer Cihan isimli vatandaşımızın ölümüne neden olan 2 katil zanlısı yakalanmıştır.❗️— Ali Yerlikaya (@AliYerlikaya) January 28, 2024
Failleri tespit edip yakalayan İstanbul Emniyetimizi ve kahraman polislerimizi tebrik ediyorum.
Hayatını kaybeden vatandaşımızın…
Turkish Presidency's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun shared a video of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan having a telephone conversation with Sarıyer District Governor Ömer Kalaylı, Priest of Santa Maria Italian Church Anton Bulai, and Consul General Lesniak.
Expressing his condolences to the community, Erdoğan stated that the necessary steps have being taken to catch the perpetrators as soon as possible.
Cumhurbaşkanımız Sayın Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, İstanbul Sarıyer’de bulunan Santa Maria İtalyan Kilisesi’nde meydana gelen saldırıyla ilgili Sarıyer Kaymakamı Sayın Ömer Kalaylı, Santa Maria İtalyan Kilisesi Rahibi Sayın Anton Bulai ve Polonya’nın İstanbul Başkonsolosu Sayın Witold… pic.twitter.com/htQMqiXgPX— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) January 28, 2024
Istanbul Governor Davut Gül stated that attackers had targeted a particular person on the crowd and added, "Two masked people entered the church, shot at a person, and that person lost his life. Our police and prosecutor's office continue to investigate this issue."
Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç announced that Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation on the attack and three prosecutor's assigned to the case.
Upon the request of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, Istanbul Criminal Judicature of Peace imposed a broadcast ban on all visual and audio news related to the attack.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu stated, "We will never allow those who try to destroy our unity and peace by attacking the places of worship in our city," in a message on X.
Sarıyer’deki Santa Maria Kilisesi'nde yapılan pazar ayinine yönelik silahlı saldırıyı kınıyorum. Hayatını kaybeden C.T’ye Allah’tan rahmet, yaralılara şifa diliyorum. Şehrimizin inanç mekanlarına saldırarak birliğimizi ve huzurumuzu bozmaya çalışanlara asla izin vermeyeceğiz.— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) January 28, 2024
Minister Yerlikaya, Governor Gül, and Mayor İmamoğlu visited the church during the day.
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.