A parish sacristan has been stabbed to death, and a Catholic priest seriously injured at two separate Catholic Churches in Spain in a suspected Islamic terror attack.
Spanish police are now investigating the suspected “terrorist” incident after horror unfolded at two different churches in the southern port city Algeciras.
The machete-wielding man attacked several people, according to Spanish authorities, including at least two clergymen at two different churches – San Isidro and Nuestra Senora de La Palma, which are around 300 metres apart. The terrifying attacks took place just between 6.30pm and 8.30pm last night in downtown Algeciras when a man carrying a sword-like weapon entered the churches and injured at least four people, a spokesperson for the city said.
The man who was killed has been named as Diego Valencia, who was a sacristan at Nuestra Senora de La Palma church. The parish priest of the other church, San Isidro, Fr Antonio Rodriguez, was among the injured and is in a serious condition, the Algeciras city spokesperson said.
A source at Madrid’s High Court confirmed that the attack was being investigated as terrorism, with prosecutors investigating the attack linking it to possible Islamic terrorism.
While police are yet to release details of the attacker’s name or nationality, according to local newspaper El Pais, he is a 25-year-old Moroccan. Police have confirmed he has been arrested.
According to police, Fr Rodriguez was the first person attacked when the suspect entered the San Isidro Church. The priest, 74, had been celebrating Mass at the time of the attack, according to a statement by the Algeciras Salesians.
In images which emerged shortly after the devastating incidents, people could be seen with their heads in their hands gathering next to a funeral vehicle at the scene of the stabbing at the Catholic church.
After attacking Fr Rodgriguez, the assailant then approached the Nuestra Senora de La Palma church where he damaged property and then attacked sacristan Valencia, who fled the church but was chased by the suspect, who inflicted further, fatal injuries on him outside the church, according to a statement released by police.
Speaking to broadcaster SER following Mr Valencia’s brutal killing, Fr Juan Jose Marina, parish priest at Nuestra Senora de La Palma, said that the suspect went straight for Valencia after the mass was over, which suggested he may have believed the sacristan was the priest.
“Possibly, this death was meant for me and it found him instead,” a tearful Fr Marina said.
Tributes have been paid to the victims of the attack, as Spain remains in a state of shock The country’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent his condolences to those caught up in the “terrible attack” via his Twitter account.
Francisco Garcia, secretary general of Spain’s Episcopal Conference, meanwhile, told of his “great pain” on hearing the news of the attacks. Taking to Twitter, he said: “These are sad times of suffering, we are united by the pain of the victims’ families and for the Cadiz Diocese”.
A day of mourning has been declared for today (Thursday 26 January) in Algeciras, while a rally will take place outside Nuestra Senora de La Palma Church, where Diego Valencia was killed, at midday today.