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One dead in gun attack on Italian church in Istanbul

One person has died in a gun attack on an Italian church in Istanbul during mass, Turkey’s interior minister said.

The shooting occurred at around 11.40am (8.40am Irish time) at the Santa Maria church in the Sariyer district of Istanbul and was carried out by two masked men, Ali Yerlikaya said on social media.

He said the attackers fled the scene after the shooting.

Television images showed police and an ambulance outside the ornate church.

Pope Francis expressed his support for the church in Istanbul.

“I express my closeness to the community of the Santa Maria Draperis Church in Istanbul,” the Argentine pope said at the end of his weekly Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

Turkey’s ruling AKP party spokesman Omer Celik said the attackers took aim at a person during the mass.

“Our security forces are conducting a large-scale investigation into the matter,” he said.

“Those who threaten the peace and security of our citizens will never achieve their goals.”

Local media reported that others were injured in the attack, but this was not immediately confirmed by the authorities.

The motive for the attack was also not immediately clear.

In December last year, Turkish security forces detained 32 suspects over alleged links with the so-called Islamic State group, which planned attacks on churches and synagogues, as well as the Iraqi embassy.

IS extremists have carried out a string of attacks on Turkish soil, including against a nightclub in Istanbul in 2017 that left 39 people dead.

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