Police have arrested a suspect after a gunman shot and seriously injured a Greek Orthodox priest in the French city of Lyon, local media have reported.
The priest, named by French media as Nikolaos Kakavelakis, was shot at twice and seriously injured in the stomach at about 4 pm local time on Saturday as he was closing the church in the city’s seventh arrondissement, police said.
The Lyon newspaper Le Progrès and other local media reported that a man answering a police description of the alleged attacker had been arrested soon after 7pm in a kebab shop in the city. There was no immediate confirmation he was the suspected attacker.
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. The shooting has not so far been declared a terrorist attack.
BFM TV reported that the priest, aged 52, was about to leave the church’s service and that investigators were also pursuing the possibility of a “personal dispute”.
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 the teacher, Samuel Paty was beheaded outside his school 20 miles north-west of Paris.
Le Progrès said neighbors 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 mobilized 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 serious condition in hospital. Police are still trying to establish exactly how and when he arrived in the city soon after being refused permission to remain in Italy on 9 October.
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 afterward. The teacher had shown pupils caricatures, including one of the Prophet Muhammad, as part of a class discussion on free speech.
Source: The Guardian