Italian Catholic priest stabbed in Turkey

An Italian Roman Catholic priest was stabbed on Sunday at his church in the city of Izmir in western Turkey, police said, in an incident that recalled the fatal shooting of another Italian priest in Turkey in 2006.

The priest, identified as Adriano Franchini, was taken to hospital. His life was not in danger, a police spokesman told Reuters. He had been stabbed in the stomach.

Police have detained three people, the spokesman said, adding it was too soon to say what the motive of the attack was.

Turkey's state Anatolian news agency said a 19-year-old man was suspected of having stabbed the priest.

The incident follows a spate of attacks in mainly Muslim but secular Turkey in recent years on Christian targets, usually by youths.

Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro was shot dead in his church in the Turkish Black Sea city of Trabzon in February 2006 by a teenager who is now in jail.

In April this year three Christians -- a German national and two Turks -- were killed in a Bible publishing house in the eastern town of Malatya. They had their throats cut. The trial of their suspected killers has begun.

Also this year, Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, a Christian, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul by a young ultra-nationalist gunman.

The European Union has long complained that Turkey, an EU applicant, fails to fully protect the religious freedoms of its tiny Christian minority, which numbers barely 100,000 in a total population of nearly 75 million.

In both the Dink and the Malatya killings, Turkish media have suggested nationalist elements in the security forces may have egged on the youthful killers, or at least ignored signals that they were about to carry out their attacks.

Some Turkish nationalists fear Christian missionaries operating in Turkey pose a threat to national security.

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