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Christian Priest Murdered In Turkey
(Anatolian Times) ANKARA – A Catholic priest was shot dead Sunday in the northern Turkish city of Trabzon but it was not immediately clear whether the murder was linked to the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Europe.

The Turkish government “ferociously” condemned the murder and promised to find the perpetrator. A local police official contacted by AFP confirmed that the priest had been killed in an armed attack but declined to give further details.

He could not say whether the incident was related to the wave of protests in Muslim nations condemning drawings of the Prophet that were first published in Denmark and then other European countries.

An official from the Vatican embassy in Ankara identified the priest as 59-year-old Andrea Santoro from Piverno, a small town near Rome , who was a member of the Santa Maria Catholic Church in Trabzon . He declined to speculate whether the murder might be related to the international tensions over the cartoon controversy.

“We ferociously condemn this murder committed in a religious sanctuary and against a man of religion,” Cicek told Anatolia news agency.

“The government is making all possible effort to shed light on this incident and find out who perpetrated it and why,” he said.

Monsignor Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar in Anatolia , said he could not rule out a link to the Muslim uproar over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. “We can`t rule anything out because we still don’t know anything,” Italy ’s ANSA news agency quoted the priest as saying by telephone.

“It’s impossible at the moment to be sure what the motive was,” he said.

The assailant, believed to be in his late teens, fired at the priest at the door of the church and then ran away, the CNN Turk television news channel quoted witnesses as saying.

“The police are working to capture the assailant in line with statements from witnesses,” Trabzon Governor Huseyin Yavuzdemir told Anatolia .

The priest died from a wound in his chest, the head of the local forensic institute said.

A person who was inside the church at the time of the murder told the police that the assailant fired three shots as the priest opened the gate of the church after the bell rang, Anatolia reported. Two bullets hit the victim, it added.

Turkey , a strictly secular state with a predominantly Muslim population which is seeking to join the European Union, sees itself as a bridge between East and West and has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring the two sides closer.