Spain: 1 dead in machete attack on churches, terror link investigated

Spain: 1 dead in machete attack on churches, terror link investigated
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – A man wielding a machete killed a sexton and injured a priest at two Catholic churches in the city of Algeciras on Wednesday before being arrested, Spain’s Interior Ministry said. The authorities are investigating the attacks as a possible act of terrorism.

The suspect is in the custody of the Spanish National Police. The ministry has not identified him.

Algeciras is near the southern tip of Spain and faces a bay of Gibraltar. Here is an important port with ferry connections to North Africa.

The attack began around 7 p.m. when a gunman entered the Church of Maria Auxiliadora y San Isidro and attacked a seriously injured priest, the ministry said.

The attacker then went to a second church, Nuestra Señora de La Palma, a five-minute walk away, where he attacked the sexton. The sexton, whose job it is to look after the church, fled outside to a public square where the attacker inflicted fatal wounds on him, the ministry said.

Algeciras City Hall said the sexton’s name was Diego Valencia and he identified the wounded priest as Antonio Rodríguez. City Hall said he was hospitalized and in stable condition.

Local media reported that at least three other people were injured.

The Spanish National Court of Justice announced that a judge had initiated investigations into a possible terrorist attack.

Police are investigating the incident, the Home Office said, to determine the “nature of the attack”. It did not provide details on the attacker’s motive.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez joined the wave of support.

“I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families of the sexton who was killed in the horrific attack in Algeciras,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter. “I wish the injured a speedy recovery.”

The secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Francisco García, wrote on Twitter: “It is with great pain that I received the news of the incident in Algeciras.” The conference is an organization of the Catholic bishops of Spain based in Rome.

“These are sad moments of suffering, we are united by the pain of the victims’ families and for the Diocese of Cadiz,” added García.

City Hall has declared a day of mourning, with flags flying at half-mast.

“We are all stunned by these acts that have filled us with pain,” said Mayor José Landaluce. “Algeciras has always been a city of harmony and tolerance, despite incidents like this that create an image that does not correspond to reality.”

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