BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A machete-wielding man killed a sexton and injured a priest in attacks at two churches in the city of Algeciras on Wednesday before being arrested, Spain’s interior ministry said, in what authorities are investigating as a possible act of terrorism.
A 25-year-old Moroccan man has been arrested. The Spanish government is treating the incident as a suspected Islamist terrorist attack.
Witnesses report he entered the La Palma church screaming and waving a machete, while the mass was ongoing. The priest asked him to leave and once outside the church, the priest was attacked and killed in the Plaza Alta public square.
The incident occurred shortly after 7.20pm on Wednesday evening
Just minutes earlier, the attacker had knifed another clergyman in the San Isidro church. The victim was taken to hospital with serious injuries; his condition was described as stable.
Spain’s National Court said a judge has opened an investigation into a possible act of terrorism. Algeciras is near the southern tip of Spain, resting across from a bay from Gibraltar. It is home to an important port with ferry connections to northern Africa.
A spokesman for Number Six said the Gibraltar Government was very concerned by the reports and expressed condolences and solidarity to the people of Algeciras as it awaited details from the law enforcement agencies.
A police source told AFP the victim was a church official and said a priest was among the injured. He said the attacker was wearing a long robe and had ‘shouted something’ while launching the attack. The source did not specify how the attack was carried out but local media reports, citing witnesses, said the assailant was wielding a machete.
Grainy footage shared on social media showed the assailant stalking across a pedestrian street brandishing a long blade in his hands moments before his arrest took place.