Lyon gun attack: Arrest made after Greek Orthodox priest seriously injured

31 October 2020, 16:19 | Updated: 31 October 2020, 23:34

A Greek Orthodox priest has been left with life-threatening injuries after being shot in the French city of Lyon.

The priest - identified by police as 45-year-old father-of-two Nikolas Kakavelakis - was fired at twice while he was closing a church at about 4pm.

Officers locked down the area and had told the public to stay away while the suspect was at large. Police later confirmed that an arrest had been made.

The alleged gunman was alone and fired from a hunting rifle, a police source said, while local media described seeing an injured man being stretchered from the church.

Anti-terrorist authorities were not investigating the shooting.

In a statement, a Lyon prosecutor said residents heard shots and screaming near the church, and when officers arrived they saw an individual running away and found the wounded priest by the back door of the building.

It is understood the suspect was wearing a long black raincoat and a black hat.

Antoine Callot, pastor at another Greek Orthodox church in Lyon, said he asked police for security protection at his church after the shooting.

"We are anxious and anguished. It's really horrible," he said. "Now we need to hide and be careful."

In a tweet, the mayor of Lyon, Gregory Doucet said: "My first thoughts are with the very seriously injured victim. The motive is unknown, the suspect is on the run. An investigation is underway, let's be careful."

Meanwhile, the British Embassy in France posted an alert about the "ongoing security incident" in the Jean-Mace area of the city's 7th arrondissement.

It comes two days after a woman was beheaded and two others killed by a man shouting "Allahu Akbar" in a church in Nice. The incident took place on the same day Muslims celebrate the Prophet Mohammad's birthday.

In a separate attack, Paris schoolteacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen two weeks ago after showing his students a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad.

France's defence of the right to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet have angered many Muslims around the world and deepened tensions in the nation.

Ministers have warned of a risk of other Islamist militant attacks.

In response to the recent violence, President Emmanuel Macron sent thousands of soldiers to protect sites such as schools and places of worship.

After today's shooting, French Prime Minister Jean Castex reiterated a commitment to guard those places.

He said French people can "count on the nation to allow them to practice their religion in full safety and freedom".

But, despite this promise, there has been no obvious visible increase in police or military presence at many popular churches and mosques.

No one was guarding the Lyon church attacked today or the one attacked in Nice on Thursday.