Two men allegedly belonging to an Islamic State group took hostages at a church near the Normandy city of Rouen on Tuesday, killing a priest by slitting his throat and seriously injuring another hostage.
The men were shot by French Police and three hostages were freed. The motive behind the attack is still unknown, and authorities are yet to establish if this was an act of terrorism. However, French President Francois Hollande, who visited the site of the attack, said the church attackers ‘claimed to be from’ an Islamic State group. Islamic State also claimed that the men belonged to their group.
The two men attacked the Catholic church during a morning mass. Two of the five hostages were nuns and the other two were church-goers. The person injured during the attack inside the church is hovering between life and death, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.
“The investigations are ongoing. There are still unknowns,” Brandet said. “There are dogs, explosive detectors and bomb disposal services and as long as there are still unknowns, the judicial police cannot get inside the site. It’s a dramatic situation.”
Pope Francis Tuesday expressed his horror over the “barbaric killing” of a priest during the church attack.
“The pope… shares the pain and horror of this absurd violence,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, adding that the attack created “immense pain and worry”.
Francis issued “the most severe condemnation of all forms of hatred” and said he was appalled “because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place” and involved the “barbaric” killing of a priest.
Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, confirmed the death of 84-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel.
“I cry out to God, with all men of good will. And I invite all non-believers to unite with this cry,” Lebrun wrote in a statement from Krakow, Poland, where Pope Francis was visiting. “The Catholic Church has no other arms besides prayer and fraternity between men.”