France church attack: Isis supporters shot dead after taking hostages and killing priest in Normandy church

Police said two attackers were 'neutralised' in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 26 July 2016 09:56
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French police at the scene of the attack on a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, northern France, on July 26
French police at the scene of the attack on a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, northern France, on July 26

Two Isis supporters armed with knives have been shot dead after murdering a priest at a Catholic church in Normandy.

The French interior ministry said the attackers took hostages including nuns and members of the congregation after storming in during morning mass. One hostage was in a life-threatening condition, another was lightly wounded and three others were freed unharmed.

Local reports said the elderly priest, Father Jacques Hamel, had served the church for decades and had his throat slit.

France knife attack - what we know so far

The attackers were “neutralised” by security forces, a spokesperson for France's Police Nationale said, adding that security assessments continued.

The two attackers stormed the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during a service at around 10am local time (9am BST) on Tuesday, taking the priest, two nuns and several members of the congregation hostage.

The crisis continued for around an hour before the armed men were shot dead by police when they emerged in a courtyard outside the church.

Speaking at the scene of the attack, interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the church was being searched for bombs and booby traps as forensic investigations continued.

President Francois Hollande and Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, met the three uninjured hostages and families of the victims after visiting the town.

Mr Hollande said the two attackers pledged allegiance to Isis, while the terrorist group praised them as “soldiers of the Islamic State” in a statement via its propaganda agency.

The Paris prosecutor said the incident was being investigated by the national counter-terrorism task force (SDAT) and the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) intelligence agency.

One person has so far been detained in connection with the investigation.

Manuel Valls, France's Prime Minister, wrote on Twitter: "Horror in the face of the barbaric attack on a church in Seine-Maritime. All of France and all Catholics are wounded. We stand together."

The Vatican said Pope Francis shares the “sorrow and horror” felt over the incident, adding: “We are particularly struck because this horrible violence has occurred in a church - a sacred place where we pronounce God's love - with the barbaric murder of a priest and worshippers affected.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote on Twitter: “Evil attacks the weakest, denies truth and love, is defeated through Jesus Christ. Pray for France, for victims, for their communities.”

The incident came under a fortnight after the Nice attack, when 84 people were killed and more than 300 injured by an Isis supporter who drove a lorry into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.

France has been on high alert since the so-called Islamic State's bombings and shootings in Paris on 13 November last year.

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