ALGECIRAS, Spain (AP) – On Thursday, Spanish police raided the home of a young Moroccan man in the southern city of Algeciras, who had been detained by machete attacks on two Catholic churches the previous night that killed a church official and injured a priest.
A police investigation led by a National Court judge is evaluating Wednesday’s violence as a possible act of terrorism. The suspect is believed to have acted alone.
“The investigation continues on the logical premise that this could be a case of terrorism, but we are in the early stages and all possibilities are open,” Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said after police completed their search for the suspect. said. house.
The interior ministry said the suspect was a Moroccan citizen with no criminal record “neither in Spain nor in any other country”. Grande-Marlaska added that he was not “on the radar” of the authorities for possible extremist activities.
Authorities told the Associated Press that her identity was Yassine Kanjaa, 25, on the condition that her name not be released as dictated by police policy.
The ministry said the suspect has been under a deportation order since June last year due to his illegal immigrant status in Spain. Neighboring Gibraltar officials, located across the bay of Algeciras, said Kanjaa was arrested on small British soil in August 2019 while trying to “land from a Jet-Ski without the necessary documentation”. He was deported days later.
The attacks rocked the multicultural city located near the southern tip of Spain. Witnesses said that in the second incident, the attacker jumped from the altar of the Nuestra Senora de La Palma Church with a machete in his hand. He then attacked a priest in charge of performing Mass inside the church and chased him into a town square before killing him.
A priest was previously injured in the church of San Isidro, just a five-minute walk from Nuestra Senora de La Palma. The suspect had quarreled with the priest before the mass and then returned to attack him. The Salesian religious sect, to which the priest belongs, said on Thursday that the priest was not in danger. order later “Best news ever” shared on Twitter: that the priest “returns to his community and is in the custody of his brothers”.
Algeciras town hall identified the late pastor as Diego Valencia and the injured priest Antonio Rodríguez.
The priest of Nuestra Senora de La Palma, Rev. Juan José Marina told Spanish media that he thinks he may be a deliberate target. He said he believed the attacker mistook the sacristan for a priest.
“The same thing happened here, just as she called the priest in San Isidro and called no one else,” said Marina. “If I were here, I’d be dead.”
Manolo González, a church minister with Valencia, said the attacker climbed the altar and said Valencia “wanted to find out what was going on”.
Candles and flowers adorned the two chapels with their whitewashed walls on Thursday. The family of the slain priest gathered in Nuestra Senora de La Palma to offer their condolences to minister Grande-Marlaska and concerned residents. While the flags were lowered at half-mast in Algeciras, a minute’s silence and vigil were held by the community, which included an important contingent from the Moroccan population of the city.
“This hurts us a lot,” said Nahual Mostanaquin. “All Moroccans, those who are here, in Morocco or in France, nobody wants this to happen. It’s crazy,” he added. “(Victim) was a good man who didn’t hurt anyone. He didn’t hurt anyone and everyone loved him.”
Aziz Handi said, “We hope it won’t happen again, because we live peacefully in Algeciras.”
Algeciras is a cosmopolitan port city and the first destination for many boats and ferries from North Africa. Irregular immigration debates in Spain.
The Islamic Commission of Spain, which represents Muslims in the country, condemned the “heinous, bloody and heartless act” that took place in “a holy place for our Catholic brothers and sisters in Algeciras”.
Violence in churches could inflame social tensions fueled in an election year by the far-right Vox party, which competes to win more seats in local and national governments, as well as form government coalitions with the centre-right People’s Party. .
Vox’s leader, Santiago Abascal, attributed the attack to his party’s illegal immigration prevention platform. Vox, the third largest party in the Spanish parliament, also presents itself as the guardian of Spain’s Catholic heritage at a time when active church membership is declining.
“There was a deportation order,” Abascal tweeted. “How many more like him can there be in Spain?”
“Islamic terrorism is a problem for European society,” said Alberto Núñez Feijóo, chairman of the People’s Party, leader of Spain’s main opposition party.
“It’s been centuries since a Catholic or Christian committed murder in the name of their religion or belief,” said Núñez Feijóo. “And there are other countries that have citizens.”
Comments by right-wing leaders have been criticized by politicians from Spain’s ruling left-wing coalition.
The general secretary of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, an organization of Spain’s Catholic bishops, called for unity.
“We cannot demonize any group,” César García said, according to the Spanish news agency EFE. “We cannot allow easy provocation, we cannot fuel the fire, we cannot fall into demagogy, and we cannot identify terrorism with any religion.”
Jennifer O’Mahony reported from Madrid and Joseph Wilson from Barcelona.
Leave a Comment