01 November 2020 06:31
Sources tell AFP that gunman shot priest twice in the chest; Lyon prosecutor's office says motive for attack is not yet clear. A Greek Orthodox priest has been critically injured in a shooting outside a church in the French city of Lyon, a police source and witnesses said. Nikolaos Kakavelaki, a 52-year-old Greek citizen, was closing his Lyon church mid-afternoon on Saturday when he was shot twice in the chest at point-blank range, sources close to the inquiry told the AFP news agency. The priest is now in a local hospital with life-threatening injuries, a police official told The Associated Press. The attacker fled the scene but Lyon's public prosecutor later announced that a suspect had been arrested.
"A person who could correspond to the description given by the initial witnesses has been placed in policy custody," prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet said, adding that the suspect had not been carrying a weapon when he was arrested. The shooting comes two days after a knife attack at a Catholic church in the French city of Nice that killed three people and amid tensions about a French newspaper's publication of caricatures mocking the Prophet Muhammad. French anti-terrorist authorities were not investigating Saturday's attack, although the interior minister activated a special emergency team to follow the case. Antoine Callot, the pastor at another Greek Orthodox church in Lyon, told AP that the Greek Orthodox community in Lyon has not received any threats but said he immediately asked police for security protection at his church after the shooting. No one was guarding the church targeted in Lyon on Saturday, or the church attacked in Nice on Thursday.
The Lyon public prosecutor's office said it had opened an investigation for attempted murder, and was liaising closely with the national anti-terrorism prosecutor. Le Monde said the hypothesis of a long-running conflict within the city's small Greek Orthodox community – including allegations of fraud against Kakavelakis that were rejected earlier this year by a Lyon court – was being taken seriously by investigators. The French interior ministry said police and emergency services were at the scene and advised passersby to avoid the area. The shooting comes three days after a man armed with a knife killed three people in a church in Nice on the Côte d'Azur, and barely two weeks after teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded outside his school 20 miles north-west of Paris. Le Progrès said neighbours in what was described as a quiet residential district told the paper they heard two shots, followed by screams of pain.
The attacker had used a sawn-off shotgun, police said. The victim was conscious when he was taken from the Greek Orthodox church on the rue du Père Chevrier to the ambulance, the paper reported, and able to tell witnesses he did not know the man who attacked him. The French prime minister, Jean Castex, said he was cutting short a visit to Rouen in Normandy and returning to Paris where a major incident room was opened in the interior ministry. The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, tweeted that he was on his way to Lyon, France's third-largest city. France has stepped up security across the country in the wake of the attacks, and ministers and officials had warned more were likely. President Emmanuel Macron announced on Thursday that the country's security threat alert had been raised to the highest level. An extra 4,000 soldiers were being deployed across the country as part of Operation Sentinelle, Macron said, bringing the total number of troops mobilised to 7,000. Security was also stepped up at churches and other religious sites before All Saints' Day, on Sunday. An additional 3,500 gendarmes are also to be drafted in to protect schools when they open after the half-term holiday on Monday, and 120 extra police have been sent to Nice. The Nice attacker, 21-year-old Brahim Aouissaoui from Tunisia, was shot by police and is in a serious condition in hospital. Paty was stabbed and beheaded outside his secondary school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine by Abdullakh Anzorov, 18, of Chechen origin, who was shot dead by police soon afterwards. A Greek Orthodox priest is fighting for his life after he was shot at a church in the French city of Lyon. Police have launched a manhunt after the attacker fled the scene, detectives confirmed. The priest was shot twice at around 4pm local time on Saturday as he was closing the church for the evening. Police locked down the neighbourhood around the church and warned the public on Twitter to stay away. It comes two days after three people were killed during a deadly knife rampage at a church in Nice. It also comes two weeks after a schoolteacher in a Paris suburb was beheaded by an 18-year-old attacker who was apparently incensed by the teacher showing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad during a class. President Emmanuel Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect sites such as places of worship and schools. (The incident took place at an Orthodox Greek Church in the French city / AP) French anti-terrorist authorities were not investigating Saturday's shooting, although the interior minister activated a special emergency team to follow the case while the gunman was still at large. "No theory is favoured, no theory is ruled out," Lyon mayor Gregory Doucet told reporters at the scene. "We don't know at this stage the motive for this attack." Antoine Callot, the pastor at another Greek Orthodox church in Lyon, identified the wounded priest as Nikolas Kakavelakis, a 45-year-old father of two. Mr Callot told the Associated Press that the Greek Orthodox community in Lyon has not received any threats, but said he immediately asked police for security protection at his church after the shooting. Residents and a local police patrol heard shots near the church, and when officers arrived they saw an individual running away and found the wounded priest by the back door of the church, the Lyon prosecutor said in a statement. Prime Minister Jean Castex reiterated government promises to deploy military forces at religious sites and schools. Macron to deploy 4,000 more soldiers after three killed in church attack He said French people can "count on the nation to allow them to practise their religion in full safety and freedom". PARIS — A Greek Orthodox priest was shot and wounded Saturday in the central French city of Lyon, but the motive was unclear, local authorities said. The shooting comes at a time of heightened tensions in France, which is still on edge after a pair of recent attacks by Islamist extremists, the killing of three churchgoers in the southern city of Nice on Thursday and the beheading near Paris two weeks ago of a schoolteacher who had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a civics class. In Lyon, around 4 p.m. on Saturday, local residents and a police patrol heard two gunshots near a Greek Orthodox church in the 7th arrondissement of the city, the Lyon prosecutor's office said in a statement. Police officers saw a man fleeing the scene and found a priest with gunshot wounds near the church's back door, the statement said. French media reported that the attacker used a sawed-off shotgun.