Spanish city pays tribute to man killed by machete in incident being treated as terror attack

Man entered two churches in Algeciras, killing sacristan, David Valenciaand, and injuring at least four others

The Spanish city of Algeciras has been paying tribute to the victim of a man who carried out an attack with a machete in two churches.

A man entered a church in the southern city on Wednesday night. After haranguing worshippers, he left and returned armed with a machete, which he used to attack a priest, Antonio Rodríguez, seriously injuring him in the neck.

On leaving, the suspect allegedly punched a young man in the street before entering another church nearby, where he tried to attack the sacristan, David Valencia, who attempted to escape. The assailant caught up with him just outside the church, where he killed him with the machete.

“It happened just after Mass, he went directly for [the sacristan],” said Juan José Marina, the priest of the second church, who arrived at the scene as the attack was taking place.


At least four people were injured in total. The injured priest, who is 73, is in hospital and is reported to be in a stable condition.

On Thursday, local people gathered in a square in the city to observe silence in tribute to the victim.

In a tweet, prime minister Pedro Sánchez described it as a “terrible attack”, adding: “All our support for the work that the security forces are carrying out”. Juanma Moreno, president of the Andalucía region, where Algeciras is located, called for caution as the case is investigated and added: “Intolerance will never have a place in our society”.

Spain’s high court, which is investigating, is treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

“It is a quick, efficient investigation,” said interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who travelled to Algeciras on Thursday. “There are no third parties involved in what happened and let’s allow the investigation to take place correctly.”

Spanish media have identified the suspect as Yasine Kanjaa, a 25-year-old Moroccan national who had been living in Spain for just over a year. He was reportedly arrested last June under immigration laws and was in the process of being repatriated. However, he is not believed to have been deemed a terror risk by the security forces.

Footage from the phone of a local person shows the suspect walking across a square in Algeciras on Wednesday night, holding a long machete.

The suspect also went to another nearby Catholic religious building, the Chapel of the Virgin of Europe, after leaving the second church, but it was closed. Police said that he did not resist when they arrested him.

Algeciras, which is a port city just 30km from the North African coast, has close links to Morocco and a large Muslim population.

“In the name of the Muslim community we condemn a murderous act against a religious and noble person,” said Dris Mohamed, spokesman for the Islamic community of El Saladillo, a district of Algeciras.

“Let’s not allow Algeciras’s coexistence to be undermined,” he added.

“Here we love each other, we respect each other, we have had many years of peaceful coexistence,” Pepi Valencia, a cousin of the victim told Spanish media. “None of this should have happened.”

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain