Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
Local News

Man arrested after Algeciras knife attacks had been deported from Gibraltar in 2019

Hundreds gathered in Algeciras to pay tribute to the dead sacristan, holding a minute's silence in his memory. Photo by Brian Reyes

The man arrested in Algeciras on Wednesday night in connection with two knife attacks in churches in the city had been detained previously in Gibraltar for immigration offences in 2019 and deported to Morocco.

The man, who was named in Spanish media reports but has not yet been charged with any offences over the Algeciras incidents, has the initials Y.K. and is said to be of Moroccan origin and aged 25.

In 2019, a man in his early 20s with the same name was one of three men and a juvenile who were arrested at sea by the Royal Gibraltar Police after they entered British Gibraltar territorial waters on a jet ski from Morocco.

A spokesperson for the RGP told the Chronicle that they believe he is the same man.

“We are liaising closely with Spanish authorities on this matter,” the spokesperson said.

At this stage there is no suggestion of any link between the events in Algeciras this week and Gibraltar, and the threat level here remains unchanged.

Y.K. was arrested on Wednesday night by Spanish police investigating the death of a man who was attacked with a machete in a church in Algeciras following an earlier attack in a different church in the city.

The man was a sacristan named Diego Valencia in the church of Nuestra Señora de La Palma in the heart of town.

He was well known in the Spanish city, where hundreds gathered at midday on Thursday to mark a minute’s silence in his memory and express repulsion over what had happened.

A spokesperson for the Spanish Government’s representative in Cadiz said the first attack happened at around 7pm on Wednesday in the parish church in the nearby district of San Isidro.

“Armed with a machete, he attacked the priest, leaving him with serious injuries,” the spokesperson said. The priest was later treated in hospital and has since been discharged.

The attacker later went to Nuestra Señora de La Palma where he caused damage within the church before setting on the sacristan.

“The sacristan managed to get out of the church but was reached by the attacker outside, where he sustained fatal injuries,” the spokesperson said.

A Spanish magistrate will investigate the incidents as a possible act of terrorism.

The spokesperson for the Spanish Government’s office in Cadiz province urged caution and said: “The facts are being investigated and it’s not possible at this time to say the reason for the attacks.”

Speaking in Stockholm on Thursday, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain’s Minister of the Interior, said the response from Spanish police had been “fast” and the investigation “will determine the facts and the nature, be it terrorism or any other motive”.

Mr Marlaska travelled to Algeciras later on Thursday, where he met with the sacristan’s family and with law enforcement chiefs in the city.

Spanish authorities believe Y.K. acted alone and said they were not looking for anyone else as part of their investigation.

On Thursday, they confirmed too that Y.K. had entered Spain illegally and had been detained in June 2022. He was living in Algeciras pending his deportation.

Investigating officers have searched his residence and were yesterday questioning the suspect.

They also dismissed reports that he had been under observation by Spanish law enforcement agencies and said he had no prior convictions for criminal or terrorism offences, either in Spain or other partner countries.

The developments were being closely followed in Gibraltar, where the Gibraltar Government on Wednesday night expressed condolences for the people of Algeciras.

“We are very concerned by these reports and express our condolences and solidarity to the people of Algeciras as we await details from the law enforcement agencies,” a spokesperson for the Gibraltar Government said.

On Thursday morning, the Gibraltar Contingency Council met to review the latest information on the attacks, in a meeting co-chaired by the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

“It was assessed that there is no specific threat to Gibraltar and so the GCC concluded that the threat level should remain at MODERATE, with a terrorist attack being possible but not likely,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“However, the GCC wishes to reassure the public that the RGP is following developments closely.”

“The GCC will continue to monitor threat intelligence as it relates to Gibraltar and our law enforcement agencies will continue to take all necessary measures to keep the public safe.”

In the statement, the GCC confirmed the Chronicle’s earlier report about the man’s deportation from Gibraltar in 2019, stressing that he and three other migrants had remained in custody following their arrest that year.

The immigration case in 2019 in Gibraltar was reported in detail by this newspaper at the time.

On August2 that year, Y.K. was arrested by the RGP Marine Section on a jet ski along with two other men in their 20s and a juvenile.

All four pleaded guilty to being non-Gibraltarians in Gibraltar without a valid permit or certificate and were kept in detention throughout their time on the Rock.

At the time, the Magistrates Court ordered their detention and deportation.

They were later removed and deported directly back to Morocco within days of their court appearance, police sources told the Chronicle.

The court was also told the three had crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on a jet ski “in search of a better life”.

The court heard too that their jet ski had capsized three times during the crossing and that they were “lucky to be alive”.

On Thursday, while there is nothing to suggest any specific threat to Gibraltar, the GCC reminded people of the importance of remaining aware of potential threats.

“As ever, the public are strongly encouraged to remain vigilant and to report any security and law enforcement concerns to the RGP on 20072500,” the statement added.

“His Excellency the Governor and the Chief Minister send their condolences and expressions of solidarity on behalf of His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar and the People of Gibraltar to the families of the victims of [Wednesday’s] attack and to the Mayor and people of Algeciras.”

“The Chief Minister has written to the Spanish Foreign Secretary and the Mayor of Algeciras in this respect.”

Most Read

Local News

Guardia Civil vessel hits runway light

Download The App On The iOS Store