The Islamic State's Attack on a Church in Istanbul
Translation and Overview
Yesterday, masked assailants carried out an attack on a Catholic church in Istanbul, killing one person. The Islamic State has credibly claimed responsibility for the attack, releasing both a report under its ‘Amaq News agency featuring a photo of the assailants and a statement issued in the name of the “Turkey wilaya” (Turkey province). These are translated in this post below. There are a couple of observations to make about this attack and the Islamic State’s responsibility for it.
First, observers should be cautious about overthinking and attaching some kind of rational ‘strategy’ to this sort of attack. Certainly, the Islamic State, in every claim of responsibility for an attack anywhere, wants to demonstrate that it is still a fighting force around the world, but as the ‘Amaq News report notes, the attack comes within the context of the Islamic State’s call for Jews and Christians to be targeted everywhere: in other words, a reiteration of spokesman Abu Hudhayfa al-Ansari’s recent call for members and supporters to kill disbelievers wherever they find them. Two Islamic State members/supporters decided to conduct the attack on the church as an gathering place for ‘disbelieving Christians’ who do not submit to the Islamic State, and they were able to do so. There is no grand strategy here of trying to play off Turkey against another state, or targeting a church on Turkish soil because of a specific policy Turkey (regarded as an ‘apostate’ state) pursued against the Islamic State in northern Syria, and the group’s members/supporters would ultimately seek to conduct such attacks regardless of Israel’s military operations in Gaza.
Second, the Islamic State’s designation of Turkey as a ‘wilaya’ is not new. Most notably, in his last video appearance in 2019, the Islamic State’s first caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi could be seen looking at a portfolio on the group’s “Turkey wilaya,” a move that was intended to illustrate how, contrary to claims critics, he was not a ‘distant’ caliph somehow unaware and removed from the management of his caliphate.
Below is my translation of the ‘Amaq report and the Turkey wilaya statement: