Orthodox priest shot at church in France; attacker at large

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A French soldier stands behind a cordon on October 31, 2020 in Lyon near the scene where an attacker armed with a sawn-off shotgun wounded an Orthodox priest in a shooting before fleeing, said a police source. – The priest, who has Greek nationality, was closing his church when the attack happened and is now in a serious condition, said the source, who asked not to be named. The shooting comes three days after three people were killed in a knife rampage inside a church in the southern town of Nice as France was already on edge after the republication in early September of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed by the Charlie Hebdo weekly, and the beheading of a teacheract. (Photo by Philippe DESMAZES / AFP) (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP via Getty Images)

LYON, France (AP) — French police say a Greek Orthodox priest was shot Saturday while he was closing his church in the city of Lyon, and authorities are hunting for the assailant.

The priest, a Greek citizen, is in a local hospital with life-threatening injuries after being hit in the abdomen, a police official told The Associated Press. The attacker was alone and fired from a hunting rifle, said the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named.

Police locked down the neighborhood around the church and warned the public on Twitter to stay away. As night fell on Lyon, police tape and emergency vehicles could be seen on images shown on French television.

The reason for the attack was unclear. It happened two days after an Islamic extremist knife attack at a Catholic church in the French city of Nice that killed three people and amid tensions over a French newspaper’s publication of caricatures mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

French anti-terrorist authorities were not investigating Saturday’s shooting, although the interior minister activated a special emergency team to follow the case while the gunman was still at large.

Prime Minister Jean Castex reiterated government promises to deploy military forces at religious sites and schools. He said French people can “count on the nation to allow them to practice their religion in full safety and freedom.”

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