Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Christian Principal Shot at in Delhi

NEW DELHI: A Christian priest was seriously injured when two unidentified youths fired at him inside a school at Sangam Vihar in south Delhi on Tuesday afternoon. One of the assailants, according to the staff, had visited the school the day before, seeking admission for his son.

Father George Phillip was admitted to a private hospital with a bullet lodged in his chest. The two assailants opened fire at the 37-year-old priest when he resisted their attempts to rob the school, said the police. The duo managed to flee and a manhunt has been launched to arrest them, the police added.

The incident happened at St Vincent Pallotti School in L Block. Though preliminary investigations suggest that it was a robbery attempt, the police are not ruling out other possibilities, including the fact that the incident could be a fallout of personal enmity.

The priest is currently undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit at Batra Hospital. "He suffered two bullet injuries, one in his chest and the other bullet grazed past his forehead," said a senior police officer.

The school authorities said they had no idea about the intention behind the attack. Said an eyewitness, a junior staff at the school, Devnish Toppo: "Two men entered Father Phillip’s office, seeking admission forms, around 1 pm on Tuesday." One of the youths, Toppo said, had come on Monday as well with some queries relating to the admission of his son in Class I.
Confirming this, another priest working at the school, Father Dominique, said: "We asked him to come on Tuesday along with his ward. On Tuesday afternoon, the same man came with his associate. They asked me for the forms and I directed them to Father Phillip’s office."

The youths entered Father Phillip’s office, and at gun-point, asked him to hand over all valuables to them, said the police. One of the men pounced on the priest and snatched away his mobile phone. Later, they shot at him twice when he resisted their attempts to rob the school.

The school staff came running on hearing the gun shots and a brief scuffle ensued as they tried to hold back the assailants. But the attackers managed to break free and one of them scaled the main gate, bolted it from outside, and ran towards the main road, while his accomplice scaled the wall and vanished into the woods near the school.

Their country-made revolver, which fell on the ground during the scuffle, was recovered by the police.

The duo managed to flee with the principal’s phone, which has been placed under surveillance, said the police. A police team with sniffer dogs visited the school and the adjoining forest, but nothing could be found.

At the time of the incident, the two priests, who stay in the residential block of the school, and some school staff were present. The school, which teaches up to Class VI, has around 150 students and eight teachers. But they were not present, as the school was closed for summer vacation, the police said.

The primary school is run by the Queen of Apostle’s Church, based in Kanpur. It was established in 2004. Father Phillip joined as the principal here about six months back. Before that, he was looking after the Indore branch of the school, the police said.