At funeral, hundreds mourn verger killed in Spain church attack
published : 27 Jan 2023 at 23:45
ALGECIRAS (SPAIN) - Hundreds of mourners gathered Friday for the funeral of the verger who was killed when a machete-wielding assailant attacked two churches in Spain as investigators probed the reasons for the deadly assault.
They gathered at Nuestra Senora de La Palma, one of the churches targeted in the southern port city of Algeciras, where the coffin of verger Diego Valencia was placed.
Dozens more gathered in the square outside.
Valencia, who was in his 60s, was first injured inside the church, fleeing outside to escape the attacker who pursued him into the square and killed him.
Dozens of red candles and bunches of flowers were laid on the spot where he died, and after the mass ended and his coffin was driven away in a hearse, the crowd broke into emotional applause, an AFP correspondent said.
The assailant also entered the nearby San Isidro church, attacking its 74-year-old priest Antonio Rodriguez, who was badly injured and underwent neck surgery but has since been released from hospital.
Arrested at the scene, the suspected attacker -- a 25-year-old Moroccan called Yassine Kanjaa -- has since been transferred to Madrid where he is being questioned by investigators, a police source said.
He is due to appear before a judge at the Audiencia Nacional, Spain's top criminal court, on Monday facing terror-related charges.
The government has said he was served with a deportation order in June but had no prior convictions and had not been under surveillance.
- Investigators probe motive -
Speaking in Algeciras late on Thursday, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said the suspect had "never been on the radar for radicalism" in Spain nor in any neighbouring countries.
Asked whether the suspect was mentally ill, Marlaska said he was not ruling out anything.
"The terrorist aspect of the events is being analysed, but there are also other possibilities," he said.
In court documents seen by AFP, the judge leading the investigation said the bloodshed could be considered linked to "jihadist Salafism" and that after his arrest, the suspect repeatedly shouted: "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest).
The incident drew condemnation from across the political spectrum although opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo, head of the right-wing Popular Party and a possible future candidate for prime minister, found himself in hot water after remarks widely seen as Islamophobic.
"It's been many centuries since a Catholic or a Christian has killed in the name of their religion or beliefs and yet other nations have some people who do that," he said.
His remarks were swiftly denounced by Education Minister Pilar Alegria.
"There are times when it is better to remain silent and seem responsible than to speak out like that," tweeted Alegria, a spokeswoman for the ruling Socialists.