One killed and four wounded as radical Islamist attacks two Catholic churches

In Algeciras (Spain), the young man killed a sexton with a machete after injuring another priest who was officiating the Eucharist in a nearby temple.

Evangelical Focus

26 JANUARY 2023 · 09:37 CET

One of the Catholic churches attacked in Algeciras on 25 January 2023. / Photo: Video capture <a target="_blank" href="">RTVE</a>.,
One of the Catholic churches attacked in Algeciras on 25 January 2023. / Photo: Video capture RTVE.

The Spanish police investigates as a “terrorist attack” the aggressions of a young man dressed with a djellaba who entered two Roman Catholic churches in the city of Algeciras (southern port city) killing a church sacristan and wounding at least three churchgoers.

The 25-year-old man - identified as Y.K. and of Moroccan origin - was detained by the police as he tried to enter a third church temple in the city whose doors happened to be closed. Local police sources told local media they thought it was a jihadist attack performed by a ‘lone wolf’ who had no known accomplices.  

At around 7pm on Wednesday 25 January, the man entered the San Isidro church, in the city centre, where he vehemently argued with churchgoers. Sources told the police he was screaming “Allah is great” and “death to Christians”.

He later returned with a machete and attacked the priest in the neck and the face during the celebration of the Eucharist. After an emergency surgery in the local hospital, the parish priest’s life is not in danger.

The suspect then walked run to another temple only 300 metres away, the Señora de La Palma church, where he used the machete to destroy images and other items in the temple. He finally walked to the front altar and attacked a sacristan (a church official supporting the priest, who was officiating a ceremony in another church at the time). The victim tried to escape the building asking for help, but the attacker reached him in the street and murdred him.

Finally, the suspect tried to enter a third building, the Europe Chapel, but the doors were closed.

The police was able to detain the terrorist moments later near the Plaza Alta square in the city centre. According to newspaper El Mundo, since summer he was in Spain in an irregular situation


Reactions from Catholics and Muslims

“This is a disconcerting situation to say the least. This is very tough”, one of the priests told national radio RNE. The Nazarene Brotherhood of Algeciras, said: “What an absurd and inexplicable death, what God can reward a murderer? Diego, rest in peace”.

“It was with pain that I received the news of the events in Algeciras”, said the head of the Spanish Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, Francisco García Magán. “In these sad moments of suffering, we join in the grief of the victims’ families and of the diocese of Cádiz and we pray to the God of life and peace for the speedy recovery of the wounded”.

The Islamic Community of the El Campo de Gibraltar region, to which Algeciras belongs, condemned what they called a “cruel and vicious attack (...) We express our condolences to his family as well as our solidarity with the wounded, to whom we wish a speedy recovery”. The Muslim community also hoped that “these criminal acts do not tarnish the coexistence that, historically, our Algeciras society enjoys (...) The condemnable acts are far from our religion and the Muslim community, which has always been an example of coexistence and encounter”.


Evangelicals: Reflection on hate speech needed

The Federation of Evangelical Entities of Spain (FEREDE) also expressed its “solidarity” with the victims of the “savage attack”. “It seems clear that 'religious hatred' is an element present in this crime, even if it were a purely personal motivation. This should make us all - politicians, media, social leaders, civil and religious authorities - reflect on how to prevent this incident from contributing to the unfounded prejudice against any group because of their origins or religious beliefs”.

The FEREDE statement ends by saying: “Let us avoid the 'Christianophobia' of one (or some) being countered by the 'Islamophobia' of others. Let us avoid all hate speech. Let us work and pray for peaceful coexistence and integration”.

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