Assailants Linked to Islamic State Kill an Elderly Priest in French Church

On Tuesday, two assailants allegedly associated with ISIS slit the throat of an elderly priest and took several worshipers hostage in a church in Normandy in France before the police shot the assailants dead.

According to police officials, the knifemen entered the Saint-Etienne parish in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during morning mass, and took four people hostage. The knifemen forced the priest to kneel and filmed his death. The attackers were shot dead by the police when they emerged from the church with their hostages.

The attack left a nun seriously injured.

According to some reports from French media, one of the knifemen was a local man, who had returned from Turkey after being intercepted by police while trying to travel to Syria. He had spent a year in jail, but was currently on bail. He was being monitored by electronic tag, and, surprisingly, his bail terms allowed him to be unsupervised between 8.30 am and 12.30 pm.

The IS news agency Amaq revealed that two of its “soldiers” were involved in the attack that as carried out in response to its calls to target countries of the US-led coalition.

French authorities revealed that a third man in connection with the attack has been arrested.

President Francois Hollande described the incident as “dreadful terrorist attack.”

He visited the Normandy town with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and met survivors of the church attack. Hollande said their country needs to “use all its means” within the law to fight the ISIS.

“The threat remains very high,” Hollande said.

Meanwhile, former president Nicolas Sarkozy accused the Socialist government of being soft on terrorism.

“We must be merciless,” Sarkozy said in a statement.

“The legal quibbling, precautions and pretexts for insufficient action are not acceptable. I demand that the government implement without delay the proposals we presented months ago. There is no more time to be wasted.”

Hamel was born in 1930 in Darnetal town and was an active member of the church. He was ordained a priest in 1958. For the past 10 years, he had been serving as an auxiliary priest in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, after retiring as the parish priest.

“He was a man who was always there for others,” Philippe Maheut, the vicar general, told FRANCE24.

“He was not responsible for the parish, but he was always on hand to celebrate baptisms, marriages, funerals and to meet people. He was someone who was very active.”

“I am deeply saddened that they targeted this ageing priest as he was getting ready to celebrate Mass. I can’t understand how someone could commit such an act,” Maheut added.