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Spain court remands church attack suspect for ‘terrorism’

A Spanish court ordered Monday a Moroccan man accused of storming two churches with a machete to be remanded in custody without bail on murder and terrorism charges.

Yassine Kanjaa, 25, is accused of killing a verger and seriously injuring a priest for “terrorist purposes”, the National Court said in a statement after questioning him.

If convicted he faces life imprisonment.

Police arrested Kanjaa at the scene of the bloodshed late on Wednesday in the southern port city of Algeciras.

The suspect first entered the church of San Isidro where he allegedly attacked a 74-year-old priest with a machete “leaving him seriously wounded”, the interior ministry said.

He then entered the nearby church of Nuestra Senora de La Palma where he allegedly attacked the verger with the machete and chased him outside before killing him, it added.

The National Court said Kanjaa is also suspected of having injured three other people in Wednesday’s assault.

He attacked “with the intention to kill” a Moroccan man he “considered to be an infidel” because he believed he had renounced his Muslim faith, it added.

The court said the alleged acts Kanjaa carried out “can be classified as a directed jihadist attack, both against priests who profess the Catholic faith, and against Muslims who, according to the suspect, do not follow the Koran”.

The investigations so far indicate the suspect “acted alone” and “did not count on the help of third parties”, the court added.

Kanjaa, who had been served with a deportation order in June due to his unauthorised migrant status in Spain, lived near the two churches which are just 300 metres (more than 328 yards) apart.

He had no prior convictions and had not been under surveillance.

In 2019, he had been deported from Gibraltar on the grounds of illegal entry, a government statement from the tiny British enclave said.

In court documents seen by AFP, the judge leading the investigation said that after his arrest, the suspect repeatedly shouted: “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest).

– ‘Unstable profile’ –

The Spanish government has not ruled out the possibility that the suspect had mental problems.

A neighbour of the suspect told AFP on Friday that the young Moroccan “was not right in the head” and had “completely changed little more than a month ago”.

Kanjaa’s roommates told police he used to drink alcohol and smoke hashish but had recently “changed radically, listening frequently to audios of the Koran on his mobile phone”, the National Court said.

The suspect fits the profile of a “self-indoctrinated terrorist who acts individually without direct ties with a terrorist organisation but who carried out their actions in the name of the jihadist phenomena,” the court said.

Spain’s National Police said Kanjaa has an “unstable profile” and his “self-radicalisation occurred rapidly in a short period of time.”

Officers seized several electronic devices from his home “which are currently being analysed” as well as various documents, the police force added.