Orthodox priest fighting for life after being shot at French church

31 October 2020, 17:15 | Updated: 1 November 2020, 09:07

Police are still hunting for a suspect
Police are still hunting for a suspect. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

A Greek Orthodox priest is fighting for life after being shot outside his church in the city of Lyon.

The 52-year-old priest is in a local hospital with life-threatening injuries after being hit in the abdomen, police said, adding the attacker was alone and fired from a shotgun.

Police locked down the largely residential neighbourhood around the church during a manhunt.

They later detained a suspect who was not armed at the time of his arrest, the Lyon prosecutor said in a statement. The reason for the attack is unclear.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters that a "serious incident" had occurred but that "we don't have precise elements yet."

The priest is in a critical condition
The priest is in a critical condition. Picture: PA

National police tweeted that “a serious public security incident” was under way.

It comes two days after a knife attack at a Catholic church in the French city of Nice that killed three people, amid tensions over the publication of caricatures mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

France's interior minister warned that more violent attacks were likely and the country's national terror threat has been raised to the highest "emergency level". An extra 4,000 troops are to be deployed to schools and churches.

Police have locked down part of Lyon during a manhunt
Police have locked down part of Lyon during a manhunt. Picture: PA

"We need to understand that there have been and there will be other events such as these terrible attacks," said Gerald Darmanin. "We're at war against an ideology, Islamist ideology."

Two other attacks took place on Thursday, one in France and one in Saudi Arabia.

A man was shot dead in Montfavet near the southern French city of Avignon after threatening police with a handgun.

A guard was also attacked outside the French consulate in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. A suspect was arrested and the guard was taken to hospital.

French President Emmanuel Macron also tweeted that “our country has no problem with any religion”, adding: “No stigmatisation: France is committed to peace and living together in harmony”.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “We condemn the attack against an Orthodox priest of Greek origin near the Church of the Annunciation in Lyon, France. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in constant contact with the competent French authorities.”