Greek Orthodox priest shot dead in church in France

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PARIS (Reuters) – A Greek Orthodox priest was seriously shot and wounded in a church in the French city of Lyon on Saturday by an assailant who then fled, a police source and witnesses said.

There was no clear indication of a motive within hours of the attack, and officials gave no indication that it was linked to terrorism. Police and judicial sources said counterterrorism prosecutors had not been called.

The priest was fired twice around 4 p.m. (3 p.m. GMT) as he closed the church, and he was being treated for life-threatening injuries, the police source said.

Witnesses said the church in the center of the city was Greek Orthodox. Another police source said the priest was of Greek nationality and was able to tell emergency services upon arrival that he did not recognize his assailant.

A Greek government official identified the priest as Nikolaos Kakavelakis.

A suspect was arrested several hours later in a kebab in Lyon and taken into custody, said the first police source. However, there was no confirmation that the person was the alleged perpetrator, nor any indication whether the police were still looking for someone else.

A source at the Lyon prosecutor’s office said she had opened an investigation into an attempted murder, and local authorities said the motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

The incident came two days after a man shouted “Allahu Akbar!” (God is the greatest) beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in Nice.

Two weeks ago, a schoolteacher in a Paris suburb was beheaded by an 18-year-old assailant, apparently irritated by the teacher showing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad during a class.

Government ministers have warned that there could be further attacks by militant Islamists. President Emmanuel Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect sites such as places of worship and schools.

Reporting by Catherine Lagrange, Sarah White and Marc Angrand; Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas in Athens; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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