Priest murdered, hostages taken during Mass at French church
PARIS – Two attackers slit the throat of an 84-year-old priest and critically injured at least one other person early Tuesday in a church near the Normandy city of Rouen before being shot and killed by police, a French security official said.
The priest, identified by Sky News as Jacques Hamel, was dead at the scene, and another person, possibly a nun, was clinging to life, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.
The killing Tuesday inside the church, in the small northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, "is obviously a drama for the Catholic community, for the Christian community," Brandet told reporters.
The identities and motive of the attackers were unclear, according to the security official, who was not authorized to be publicly named. Police said the pair entered through the back door of the church and took the priest, two nuns and two parishioners hostage during morning Mass.
Police responded and later confirmed that the attackers had been "neutralized," Sky News reported. Three hostages were rescued in good condition, while another was taken away on a stretcher, according to reports.
French President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve were heading to the northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray where the hostage-taking took place, Brandet said.
Brandet, speaking later on BFM TV, said the RAID special intervention force was searching the church and its perimeter for possible explosives. Terrorism investigators have been summoned, he said.
France is currently on high alert after an attack in Nice on Bastille Day — July 14 — that killed 84 people and a string of deadly attacks last year claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 147 victims.
France is also under a state of emergency and has extra police presence in the wake of the Nice attack in which a man barreled his truck down the city's famed Promenade des Anglais, mowing down holiday crowds.
( Source )