GEORGE TOWN: A Hindu priest had a close brush with death when he narrowly avoided being shot in front of his home in Jalan Satu, Air Itam here last night.

The man, in his late 50s, was watering plants in front of his home around 9.30pm when the incident occurred.

Two men on a motorcycle rode past. One of the men fired off several shots in his direction.

The man, startled, fell to the ground upon hearing the shots.

However, none of the shots struck him.

A neighbour, N. Manju Bhar­gavi, 23, said she was home with her fam­ily just a few blocks away from the victim's house when the shooting took place.

"We heard three loud sounds. I tho­ught it was from a house nearby whe­re a wedding was taking place. I thought it was a firecracker or so­mething.

"About 15 minutes la­ter, I stepped out of the house and saw police patrol cars on the street. It was only then that I realised those were gunshots," she said when met at the crime sce­ne yesterday.

She said she had noticed several suspicious-looking individuals in the neighbourhood a few weeks ago.

A source told the NST that initial investigations suggest that the shots were meant as a warning, and not to kill.

It was alleged that the priest, who is attached to a near­by temple, is plagued with debts.

"It happened at close range. They could have killed him but didn't. So they could just have been warning shots," said the source.

Police have yet to rel­ease an official state­ment on the matter.

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Penang police forensic experts scouring the crime scene in Jalan Satu, Air Itam, where a Hindu priest narrowly avoided being gunned down last night. Pix by Shahnaz Fazlie Shahrizal