US & Canada

New York police arrest man with petrol in St Patrick's Cathedral

St Patrick's Cathedral in New York, September 2015 Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption St Patrick's is a Catholic cathedral in Manhattan built in the 19th Century

A man has been arrested after walking into New York's St Patrick's Cathedral carrying two full petrol cans, lighter fluid and lighters, police say.

They say guards confronted the 37-year-old as he entered the Manhattan church on Wednesday evening.

He spilt gasoline on the ground and officers took him into custody.

Deputy police commissioner John Miller noted that the "suspicious" incident occurred just two days after a fire gutted Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

St Patrick's is the seat of New York's Roman Catholic archdiocese.

"An individual walking into an iconic location like St Patrick's cathedral carrying over four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and lighters, is something we would have grave concern over," Mr Miller told reporters.

The NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism however said it was "too early to say" whether terrorism was a motive.

When confronted outside the cathedral, the man told officers his vehicle had run out of fuel and he was cutting through the cathedral to get to it. He was arrested when police checked the van and saw it was not out of petrol.

"We don't know what his mindset was," Mr Miller said.

Investigators in Paris say renovation works at Notre-Dame could have accidentally sparked Monday's fire.

The disaster has led to a surge in fundraising for black churches destroyed by an arsonist in the US earlier this year.

A 21-year-old accused of burning down three African-American churches in Louisiana was on Tuesday charged with hate crimes.

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