BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A machete-wielding man killed Sexton and injured a priest at two Catholic churches in the city of Algeciras before being arrested, Spain’s interior ministry said. Authorities are investigating the attack as a possible act of terrorism.
The suspect is in custody of the Spanish National Police. The ministry did not identify him.
Algeciras is near the southern tip of Spain and faces the Gulf of Gibraltar. It is home to an important port with ferry connections to North Africa.
The attack began around 7 p.m., according to the ministry, when armed men broke into the church of Maria Auxiliador y San Isidro and assaulted the badly wounded priest.
The perpetrators then went to a second church, Nuestra Senora de la Palma, a five-minute walk away, and attacked Sexton. Sexton, whose job it is to look after the church, fled to a public square outside, where the attackers mortally wounded him.
Algeciras City Hall has identified the sexton as Diego Valencia and identified the injured priest as Antonio Rodriguez.
Local media reported that at least three others were injured.
Spain’s national court said a judge had opened an investigation into possible acts of terrorism.
Police are investigating the incident to determine the “nature of the attack”, the Interior Ministry said. Details about the attacker’s motives have not been released.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez also voiced his support.
Sanchez tweeted: “My deepest condolences to the family of Sexton, who were killed in the terrible attack in Algeciras. I wish the injured a speedy recovery.”
Francisco Garcia, secretary-general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, wrote on Twitter that he was “very saddened to receive the news of the incident in Algeciras.” This conference is an organization of Spanish Catholic bishops based in Rome.
“These are moments of sad suffering. We are united for the pain of the families of the victims and for the Diocese of Cadiz,” added Garcia.
City Hall has declared a day of mourning when flags are flown at half mast.
“We are all stunned by these acts that have filled us with pain,” said Mayor José Randaluz. “Algeciras has always been a city where harmony and tolerance reigned. Even though it creates an image that doesn’t correspond.”