A machete-wielding man killed a sexton and wounded a priest in attacks at two churches in the Spanish city of Algeciras on Wednesday before being arrested, in what authorities are investigating as a possible act of terrorism.
The suspect was arrested and is in the custody of Spain’s national police. The ministry did not identify him.
The attacks began around 7pm when the armed man went into the San Isidro church and assaulted a priest, who was seriously wounded.
The assailant then went to a second church, the Nuestra Señora de La Palma – a five-minute walk away – where he continued his rampage, assaulting the sexton. The sexton, whose job it is to take care of the church and its maintenance, fled outside where the attacker dealt him the mortal wounds in a public square.
The Algeciras town hall identified the sexton as Diego Valencia and the wounded priest as Antonio Rodríguez. The town hall said Rodríguez had been hospitalized and was in a stable condition.
Local media reported that at least three other people had been injured.
Spain’s national court said a judge has opened an investigation into a possible act of terrorism.
Police are investigating the incident, the interior ministry said, to determine the “nature of the attack”. It offered no further detail on the attacker’s possible motive.
The secretary general of Spain’s Episcopal Conference, Francisco García, wrote on Twitter: “I have received the news of the incident in Algeciras with great pain.”
“These are sad moments of suffering, we are united by the pain of families of the victims and for the diocese of Cádiz,” he added.
Algeciras is near the southern tip of Spain, across the bay from Gibraltar. It is home to an important port with ferry connections to northern Africa.
The town hall has declared a day of mourning; 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 where concord and tolerance reign, despite incidents like this that create an image that does not correspond to reality.”