BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A machete-wielding man killed a sexton and injured a priest in attacks on two churches in the city of Algeciras on Wednesday before being arrested, Spain’s Ministry of Justice said. Interior, in what authorities are investigating as a possible act of terrorism.
The suspect was arrested in the southern city and is being held by the Spanish National Police. The ministry did not identify him.
The attack began around 7 p.m. when the gunman entered the San Isidro church and assaulted a priest, who was seriously injured, the ministry said.
The assailant then went to a second church, the Nuestra Señora de La Palma – a five-minute walk away – where he entered and continued his rampage, assaulting the sexton. The sacristan, whose job is to take care of the church and its upkeep. fled outside where the assailant inflicted fatal injuries on him in a public square, the ministry said.
Algeciras City Hall said the sexton was named Diego Valencia and identified the injured 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.
Spain’s National Court said a judge had opened an investigation into a possible act of terrorism.
Police are investigating the incident, the Home Office said, to determine the “nature of the attack”. He provided no further details about the attacker’s possible motive.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez joined in the outpouring of condolences.
“I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of the sexton killed in the terrible attack in Algeciras,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter. “I wish the injured a speedy recovery.”
The Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Spain, Francisco García, wrote on Twitter: “I received the news of the incident in Algeciras with great pain.”
“These are sad moments of suffering, we are united by the pain of the families of the victims and for the diocese of Cádiz”, he added.
Algeciras is near the southern tip of Spain, across a bay from Gibraltar. It is home to a major port with ferry connections to North Africa.
The town hall has decreed a day of mourning where the flags will fly at half mast.
“We are all stunned by these acts, which have filled us with pain,” Mayor José Landaluce said. “Algeciras has always been a city of harmony and tolerance, despite incidents like this creating an image that does not correspond to reality.