A machete-wielding man killed an executioner and wounded a priest in an attack on two churches in the city of Algeciras on Wednesday before being arrested, Spain’s interior ministry said, which authorities are investigating as a possible terrorist attack.
The suspect was arrested in the southern city and is in the custody of the Spanish National Police. The ministry has not established his identity.
The attack began around 7 p.m. when a gunman entered the San Isidro church and attacked the priest, who was seriously injured, the ministry said.
The attacker then headed to a second church, Nuestra Señora de La Palma, a five-minute walk away, where he entered and continued his rampage, attacking the convent. The guard, whose duties include taking care of the church and its maintenance. He fled to the street, where the assailant fatally wounded him in the public square, the ministry said.
The City Hall of Algeciras reported that the name of the porter was Diego Valencia, and the wounded priest was identified as Antonio Rodríguez. The mayor’s office reported that he was hospitalized and is in a 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 terrorist act.
Police are investigating the incident, the interior ministry said, to determine “the nature of the attack”. There were no further details about a possible motive for the attacker.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez joined in the condolences.
“I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of the executioner killed in the horrific attack in Algeciras,” Sanchez wrote on Twitter. “I wish the injured a speedy recovery.”
The General Secretary of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Francisco García, wrote on Twitter that he “received the news of the incident in Algeciras with great pain.”
“These are sad moments of suffering, we share the pain of the families of the victims and the diocese of Cádiz,” he added.
Algeciras is located near the southern tip of Spain, resting against the Bay of Gibraltar. It is an important port with ferry service to North Africa.
City Hall has declared a day of mourning when flags will be flown at half-mast.
“We are all stunned by these actions, which have filled us with pain,” said Mayor Jose Landalus. “Algeciras has always been a city of harmony and tolerance, despite such cases that create an image that is not true.”