The group calling itself Islamic State (ISIL) says two of its “soldiers” carried out a church attack in the French region of Normandy in which a priest was murdered and worshippers taken hostage. The claim came via ISIL’s news agency Amaq.
The assailants, armed with knives, stormed the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, taking several people hostage and slitting the throat of an 86-year-old priest, who has been named as Jacques Hamel. Another hostage, one of four who were held, was seriously wounded.
A specialist police unit arrived quickly from the nearby town of Rouen. Officers surrounded the church and shot dead the attackers. The other hostages were rescued.
French President Francois Hollande said France should use all its means in its war against the militant group.
Hollande was joined by the local mayor and the country’s interior minister.
“We are facing a challenge, and yet another one, because the threat level is very high and it remains very high after all that we’ve been through in the past few days, years even,” said Hollande. “We are dealing with Daesh (ISIL), which has declared war on us. We must lead this war with all means necessary, respecting the law, which is what makes us a democracy.”
At least one of the attack suspects was known to police and reportedly wore an electronic monitoring tag as part of his bail conditions. French media reports say the electronic tag corresponds to that of a man who was convicted after trying to join extremists in Syria and being sent back to France by Turkey. He was reportedly freed last March.
Tuesday’s (July 26) attack is the latest in a string of deadly assaults in Europe, including a massacre in the southern French city of Nice on Bastille Day, and five incidents in Germany.