July 2016 – FRANCE – A priest has been ‘beheaded’ by two ISIS knifemen who cut his throat after bursting into a French church and taking nuns and worshipers hostage before being shot dead by police. Five people including the 86-year-old priest, two nuns and two parishioners were held by assailants who raided the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen in Normandy at 9am. The clergyman, named as Jacques Hamel, is believed to have been beheaded during the attack while another hostage is fighting for life in hospital.
The two attackers were ‘neutralized’ by marksmen as they emerged from the building, which is now being searched for explosives. French president Francois Hollande said the men ‘claimed to be from’ ISIS while the terror group has claimed responsibility through its news agency. There were reports the attackers shouted ‘Daesh’ – an alternative name for ISIS often used by the French government – as they ran into the church while at least one of the men was dressed in Islamic clothing. It comes as it emerged that the building was one of a number of Catholic churches on a terrorist ‘hit list’ found on a suspected ISIS extremist last April.
There are also reports that one of the attackers was a local resident who was under electronic tag surveillance having been jailed in France for trying to travel to Syria in 2015. His bail terms allowed him to be unsupervised between 8.30am and 12.30pm – the attack happened between 9am and 11.am.
Pope Francis has expressed his ‘pain and horror’ at the incident with a spokesman saying the Pontiff was appalled by the ‘barbaric killing’ because it happened in a sacred place. The Archbishop of Canterbury Just Welby said: ‘Evil attacks the weakest, denies truth and love, is defeated through Jesus Christ. Pray for France, for victims, for their communities.’ French President Francois Hollande, visiting the scene of the attack, condemned the ‘vile terrorist attack’ which he said had been carried out by two men who ‘claimed to be from Daesh’ and insisted France needed to fight the war against ISIS ‘by all means.’
The two men held the priest and congregation of four – which included two nuns – hostage for almost an hour before being shot as they emerged on to the courtyard of the church. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Paris had earlier said that they had crept into the church via a back entrance during a morning service, soon after 9am. The two men seized the priest, two sisters from a local order, and two parishioners. ‘A third nun escaped and raised the alarm, and anti-terrorists officers were on the scene within minutes,’ said a source who lives locally. ‘It appears that the priest who was celebrating the service was attacked first, and had his throat cut.
‘The area around the church was sealed off, and then armed officers appeared with their weapons. I heard at least a dozen shots.’ The siege officially ended at around 11am, following the shooting of the two attackers. This morning, security sources said one of the murderers was a convicted terrorist who was meant to be living with his parents with an electronic tag on his ankle. The revelation – made to the French TV news channel I-Tele – will cause further outrage in a country devastated by constant security failings. Two identities of the attackers are already known to the authorities. One, who lived close to the church, is said to have left for Syria in 2015 to try and join ISIS, but he was arrested in Turkey.
He was jailed for terrorist offences following a short trial in France, before being released on March 2 this year. Bail conditions included returning to live with his parents, wearing an electronic tag, and reporting to his local police station. Neither of the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray attackers have yet been named. French security services have been regularly criticized for the way they allow known terrorists their freedom after being found guilty of crimes. –Daily Mail