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Orthodox priest in France shot at church; attacker sought

The shooting came two days after a knife attack at a Catholic church in the French city of Nice that killed three people.
Image: Lyon armed attack
Security and emergency personnel at the scene where an armed attacker shot and wounded an Orthodox priest before fleeing, in Lyon, France, on Oct. 31, 2020.Philippe Desmazes / AFP - Getty Images

A Greek Orthodox priest was shot at a church in Lyon, France, on Saturday, and authorities are searching for the attacker.

The reason for the shooting was unclear.

The 52-year-old priest was closing up his church at around 4 p.m. when he was approached by a man with a hunting rifle. The suspect fired more than one shot, hitting the priest in the abdomen. He was in serious condition.

Lyon Mayor Grégory Doucet said several hours after the shooting that the priest was in surgery and the investigation into the attack remained in the early stages.

The incident comes two days after a knife attack at a Catholic church in the French city of Nice that killed three people, and amid ongoing tensions over a French magazine’s publication of caricatures mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Authorities are investigating the knife attack as suspected terrorism.

In that attack on Thursday, authorities said a 21-year-old Tunisian national entered the Notre Dame basilica in Nice and began stabbing people. The three victims were identified as two women, ages 60 and 44, and a 55-year-old man who was officiating part of the church service.

Witnesses inside the church described hearing the suspect shout "Allahu Akbar," or "God is Great" in Arabic, France's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, said at a news conference.

Authorities found items believed to belong to the man, including a Quran, three knives and two cellphones.

Ricard said the suspect had entered the country on Oct. 9 and had previously been in Lampedusa, an Italian island that serves as a European entry point for migrants from Africa. He was taken into custody after the stabbing.

Earlier this month, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee decapitated a French school teacher who had shown students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published by the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

The Associated Press contributed.