Church of Our Lady of La Palma in Algeciras, Spain. / Credit: Faconaumanni (CC BY-SA 3.0) Wikimedia Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 28, 2023 / 10:00 am (CNA).

On Jan. 25 a young Moroccan national identified as Yassine Kanjaa carried out jihadist attacks in Algeciras, Spain, killing a sacristan and seriously wounding a priest in two different incidents.

The General Commissariat of Information, an intelligence service under Spain’s National Police, compiled two reports on the attacks dated Jan. 29 and Jan. 30. Europa Press recently gained access to them and on April 26 published details reconstructing events.

The reports state that according to Father Antonio Rodríguez Lucena, who was wounded, the attacker was not provoked: “Nobody did anything that could bother him.”

In his testimony, the priest said that Kanjaa told a parishioner that “the Christian faith is negative and must be eliminated.”

According to the reports to which Europa Press has had access, the attack began at 6:30 p.m. local time when Kanjaa entered San Isidro Church in Algecrias and began to argue with the parishioners.

After the terrorist stated his desire to eliminate the Christian faith, he “vehemently” said that “the only religion to follow is the Islamic religion,” according to the testimony of the priest who survived the attack.

The woman who opened the church daily testified that the attacker took a Bible that was there and started hitting the seating with it. She confronted the man, managed to snatch the Bible away from him, and asked him to leave.

At 7 p.m. the individual returned to the area outside the church. The faithful who were attending Mass could hear him shouting in Arabic. After Mass, Rodríguez wanted to find out what was happening.

At that moment, “the suspect, carrying a large machete in his hand, suddenly attacked the priest causing serious injuries,” the report states.

In his statement to police, the priest said that “a man dressed in black entered, who was heading towards the altar without saying anything.” 

The priest waited for him at the altar with the idea of having an open way to escape. When the man got to the altar he brandished his weapon, which the priest hadn’t realized he was carrying.

When the priest tried to flee, he stumbled and felt the weapon strike him. The parishioners attended to the wound and shut the church door so the attacker couldn’t get back inside.

The weapon, according to another witness, was “a large blue machete.” Others described it as a “knife” or “a kind of katana,” a curved Japanese sword.

After this attack, Kanjaa went to the Virgin of La Palma church located about 650 feet away. According to a witness, along the way he ran into a Moroccan passerby, whom without saying a word he punched in the face, breaking his glasses. He then struck him twice more and accused him of practicing the wrong religion.

When he got to the Virgin of La Palma church, the attacker saw the sacristan, Diego Valencia, leaving through a back door of the church.

According to the police, Kanjaa struck him with several initial blows with his weapon. The sacristan tried to flee but the attacker caught up with him in Plaza Alta, threw him to the ground, gripped the katana with both hands and “raising his gaze to the sky and shouting a few words in Arabic, among which was heard ‘Allah,’ dealt him one last fatal blow.”

According to a witness, Valencia tried to defend himself with a chair and he asked for the police to be called. Shortly afterwards the attacker was arrested without offering any resistance.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference condemned the attacks and expressed their condolences to the families of the victims.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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