PARIS, France – In yet another attack that gripped France on Tuesday – an 86-year-old priest was reportedly beheaded by two Islamic Knifemen and some nuns and worshippers were taken hostage at a Parish Church.
French President Francois Hollande called the attack a ‘cowardly assassination’ and added that the incident was a terror attack committed in the name of ISIS.
ISIS claimed the attack via its Amaq news agency and said that both the assailants were its “soldiers.”
It said, “The perpetrators of the Normandy church attack are soldiers of the ISIS who carried out the attack in response to calls to target countries of the Crusader coalition.”
The Paris prosecutor’s office is said to have launched an investigation into the attack the has left the priest dead and another person critically injured.
The attack took place in the suburb of Rouen at a church in St.-Etienne-du-Rouvray, which is located 65 miles northwest of Paris.
The incident took place at 9 am on Tuesday morning and reports stated that five people including the priest, two nuns and two parishioners were held at the church as hostages after the assailants barged into the church.
Some reports in the French media claimed that one of the attackers, dressed in Islamic clothing yelled ‘Daesh’ which is the islamic name for ISIS and launched the attack.
Soon after the police arrived, the church was surrounded and the French Police Nationale released no details about the situation but alerted people on Twitter, urging them to stay away from the security tape at the scene. Civilians were also warned against taking any photos or recording videos.
Local media showed a view of the scene packed with elite RAID, the anti-terrorist unit and emergency crews that had arrived at the Church of the Gambetta.
Reports said that the incident unfolded very fast and within 15 seconds a number of shots were heard. The incident ended at around 11.15 am when the police said that both hostage-takers were “neutralised” by the police.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet, revealing details about the attack said, the clergyman, identified as Jacques Hamel was ordained in 1958 and had his throat cut.
“Two men rushed into the church via a back entrance during a morning service, soon after 9 am. They seized the priest, two sisters from a local order, and two parishioners,” he said.
Further, some reports quoted locals around the area as stating, “A third nun escaped and raised the alarm, and anti-terrorists officers were on the scene within minutes. 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.”
As President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve reached the scene, the police had begun a search operation inside the church to see if there were explosives in the area.
Manuel Valls, French Prime Minister said on Twitter that he was “horrified at the barbaric attack.”
He said, “The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together.”
Pope Francis too said he was horrified at the “barbaric killing” of a priest and has expressed “pain and horror” at the incident, issuing “the most severe condemnation of all forms of hatred.”
Just Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement, “Evil attacks the weakest, denies truth and love, is defeated through Jesus Christ. Pray for France, for victims, for their communities.”
The incident has left France rattled as it comes merely weeks after the deadly July 14 Bastille Day attack that took place in the southern city of Nice leaving 84 people dead.