Attack against two churches in Algeciras leaves one dead and at least four wounded — terrorist shouted "death to Christians"

Country: Spain

Date of incident: January 25, 2023

On 25 January in the evening, a jihadist terror attack targeting two Catholic churches took place in Algeciras, Spain. Y. K., a 25-year-old Moroccan, has been arrested as the sole perpetrator of the attack, which he executed with a machete. An altar server was killed, and at least four persons are injured, including a priest in serious condition. Several witnesses indicate that he conducted the attack while shouting "Allah is great" and "death to Christians".

According to the reports, first, the terrorist assaulted San Isidro’s church, where he started by trying to force the laymen there to convert to Islam and then gravely wounded the priest hitting him in the neck with a machete. According to witnesses quoted by the news agencies, the attacker shouted different Islamist and anti-Christian slogans and was wearing a black djellaba which some interpret as a desire not to "immolate himself" (suicide bombers usually wear white).

After the first aggression, the perpetrator targeted the La Palma church, 200 meters away from the first church, where Holy Mass was being celebrated. When he entered, he started to destroy various religious objects with his machete and even climbed onto the altar. The terrorist was then confronted by the sacristan, Diego Valencia, who tried to stop him. The perpetrator first stabbed him in the abdomen and then, after the sacristan escaped to the exterior of the church, in the head until he was dead.

Three bystanders that attempted to stop the assault were injured with various cuts. The assailant then attempted to storm a third Catholic temple, but it was closed, so he tried to hide somewhere, but was detained by local police before he could do so. The detainee was then handed over to the Policía Nacional (Spanish National Police), who have taken over the investigation.

Although Y.K. did not have a criminal record in Spain, he was awaiting deportation to his country, as he was in Spain in an irregular situation. La Razón reports that in Algeciras, there is a community of 12,000 Moroccans, of which only 6,000 are registered.

The attack has been condemned by both political and religious figures at the local, regional, and national levels. As for the impact this case had on the community, some witnesses have expressed the terror they felt during the attack and how dear the deceased sacristan was to the community. The parish priest of La Palma, where Diego was sacristan, lamented his murder by saying "Instead of me dying, he died," reports El Independiente.

The terrorist remains in police custody and an investigation is underway. The apartment where he lived as a squatter has already been searched.

Words from the witnesses

The first victim of the night was a Moroccan young man who crossed the perpetrator on the streets: "I think I was his first victim. He is Moroccan and so am I; I don't know what his problem is", narrated A. L. to the newspaper El Pais. The attacker also yelled at A. L. that he “worked for the majía”, which is an expression used in Morocco to say that someone is contrary to the religion they practice.

A member of the parish of San Isidro (the first church he attacked) recalled: "He took [the book] of the Gospel and began to say that it was no good, so the person in charge asked him for respect and for him to leave".

A resident of the San Isidro neighbourhood, Raúl Ocaña, also described to El Pais some more details: "He was known by the neighbours that the flat was occupied, although we didn't know him personally." Ocaña arrived at the scene of the attack when the priest was being treated: "A nurse and a civil guard who are from the brotherhood gave him the first attention. They were trying to plug the wound because it was very large," he explained.

Juan José Marina is the parish priest of the church in La Palma (the second targeted church). He told the news: "The sacristan tried to stop him, and the first attack with the knife was inside the church. The poor man went out into the street asking for help, and there he attacked him again, in the square".

Sources: ABC de SevillaEl PaísLa RazónEl Independiente

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