A man was arrested on Wednesday evening on suspicion of killing a church assistant and injuring a priest in a machete attack in the southern port of Algeciras, in the province of Cádiz (Andalusia). The arrest was carried out in the vicinity of Plaza Alta, in the heart of the city.
Three others were injured at two churches and the authorities are investigating the attacks as a possible act of terrorism. The suspect is in the custody of Spain’s National Police. The Ministry of Interior did not identify him.
The attack started at around 7pm when an armed man went into the church of Maria Auxiliadora y San Isidro and assaulted a priest, Antonio Rodríguez, who was seriously injured, the police said.
The attacker was described as being of north African descent and wearing a djellaba, the hooded robe typically worn in the Maghreb region. When he entered the church of San Isidro he reportedly first started hacking at religious objects.
El País reported that the attacker started arguing with churchgoers, telling them they should be practising Islam. It was reported that Rodríguez ordered him to leave before he was stabbed in the neck outside the church. He was later taken to hospital.
The assailant then went to a second church, Nuestra Señora de La Palma, a short walk away, where he reportedly damaged religious images, crucifixes and candles with a machete. He then attacked the sacristan, Diego Valencia. The sacristan, whose job was to take care of the church, fled outside to a public square, where the attacker fatally wounded him, the police said. A video shared on social media showed the alleged attacker dressed in black walking across a square holding a machete.
Spain’s national court said a judge had opened an investigation into a possible act of terrorism.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said: ‘I want to convey my most sincere condolences to the relatives of the [church official] who died in the terrible attack in Algeciras. I wish a speedy recovery to the injured.’ He said that he supported ‘the work being carried out by the state security forces and corps’.
Spain’s EFE news agency has since named the suspect as Yasin Kanza, a Moroccan national. They have reported that as he was carrying out the attacks, he shouted ‘death to Christians’ and ‘Allah is great’.
Yasin Kanza, el marroquí detenido tras haber matado con una machete a un sacristán y herido a otras cuatro personas, gritó "muerte a los cristianos" y "Alá es grande" mientras perpetraba su acción en la localidad gaditana de Algeciras. pic.twitter.com/hpb48lloM7— EFE Noticias (@EFEnoticias) January 26, 2023