Monday, February 27, 2006

Priest who grew up in Priverno killed

Istanbul, 7 Feb. (AKI) - Turkish police have arrested a 16-year-old student suspected of killing an Italian Catholic priest in the port of Trabzon on Sunday. Public Prosecutor Burhan Cobanoglu identified the youngster only as O.A. and said he was arrested at a relative's home in Trabzon, private NTV television reported. Father Andrea Santoro, 60, was shot in the back twice as he knelt in his church on the Black Sea coast and witnesses say his killer yelled Allahu Akbar(Allah is Great) before firing. Reports say the suspect is being questioned and is expected to appear in court later in the day

Father Santoro's body is due to be flown back to Italy on Tuesday for his funeral later this week in Rome.

Police also seized a handgun during the raid, the semi-official Anatolia news agency said.

The police on Monday had distributed an identikit sketch of the suspect, a clean-shaven young man, wearing a woolen hat.

In the search for the killer, police have been looking at two possible motives; local crime groups irritated at Father Santoro's efforts to help women caught up in prostitution or some link with the wave of protests in Muslim countries regarding the Danish cartoons.

However, one Turkish news agency quotes a police official saying that the suspect may have been influenced by recent media coverage of the case of Ali Agca, the man who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981. He was briefly released from prison, amid much criticism, and later rejailed, because of an error in the calculation of his terms.

A woman who lives near the church told reporters Monday that Santoro had argued with teenagers in the church courtyard the day before he was killed. But church officials have denied this.

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