A Greek Orthodox archpriest is battling for his life after being shot in the chest with a sawn-off shotgun outside his church in Lyon in central France and even though the shooting is not being treated as a terrorist incident, it’s fuelled an already frenzied atmosphere around churches in France following the slaying of three people in the basilica in Nice by a Tunisian Islamist on Thursday.
The archpriest, named as Father Nikolaos Kakavelakis, 52, was shot as he closed the church in Lyon’s seventh district on Saturday. Prosecutors say he’s in critical condition.
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that in Lyon, around 4 pm on Saturday, residents and a police patrol heard two gunshots near a Greek Orthodox church on the 7th arrondissement of the city.
Police officers saw a man escaping the location and discovered a priest with gunshot wounds near the church’s back door. French media reported that the assailant used a sawn-off shotgun.
The prosecutor’s office said that the police captured a person matching eyewitness descriptions of the assailant later on Saturday and a report from the prosecutor’s office said that the individual was not carrying a weapon and didn’t say that the person was a suspect in the shooting.
Grégory Doucet, the mayor of Lyon, said that the priest had been hospitalized with serious injuries and the prosecutor’s office said that at this stage, no hypothesis had been ruled out nor favoured, adding that it had opened an investigation for attempted murder and that it was in communication with the national antiterrorism prosecutor’s office.
However, the fact that the national antiterrorism prosecutor was not directly handling the case was a sign that authorities didn’t have proof of a terrorist motive.
The Lyon prosecutor’s office didn’t deliver more details about the attacker.
The police cordoned off the site, a residential area in Lyon, and local police asked residents to avoid it and French authorities have put the country on its highest terrorism alert status after the attack in Nice and had increased security patrols around key locations, including places of worship.
Jean Castex, the Prime Minister, told reporters on Saturday that grave events had transpired in Lyon but he didn’t have any information on the circumstances.
Jean Castex happened to be speaking from St-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a small town in Normandy where an 85-year-old priest was killed in 2016 in a terrorist attack that the Islamic State said it had carried out.
Mr Castex, who was visiting the town to review heightened security at the church, said the French Government was determined to ensure that all worshipers could practice their religion in complete safety and with total freedom.
Terrorist attack or not, this was still a heinous crime that should not have occurred and seems to be getting very little coverage via media outlets.
Then there were the two Muslim women who were stabbed repeatedly under the Eiffel Tower amid growing tension in Paris after the beheading of a teacher.
French police arrested two female suspects after an argument about dogs that allegedly descended into violence and racist slurs including the words ‘Dirty Arabs’.
One of the Muslim women said the assailants had pulled out a knife after refusing to put their dogs on a leash and slashed her in the skull, arm and ribs.
Evidently, according to French authorities, a fellow Greek Orthodox adherent and aggrieved community member has been detained and is the leading suspect in the attempted slaying of Father Nikolaos Kakavelakis outside the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lyon.
According to the Lyon Police, Jean-Michel Dhimoïla, a French national, Greek Orthodox Christian and member of the same Lyon parish where Father Nikolaos Kakavelakis was shot, was arrested and brought into police headquarters for questioning.
Jean-Michel Dhimoïla, a former legislative contender for the far-right French political party Debout la France, was also once a Greek Orthodox Monk and had a long-standing personal conflict with the priest.
According to the French newspaper Le Monde, the former monk and the priest were involved in long-standing disputes that ended up in court.
This was a hate crime and so far this incident doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Muslim hate crimes.