Since 2015, ISIS-inspired attackers have killed at least 235 people in France, recorded as the largest casualty rate of any Western country by far.
President Francois Hollande appealed for the public’s support, as the incident has shaken the traditionally Catholic country, and stressed that attacks on any religious institution hits a fundamental aspect of the republic.
He said, “Killing a priest is to desecrate the republic, which guarantees freedom of conscience,” and the statement has given rise to speculations that, despite the country upholding secularism as its highest ideal, Hollande emphasised France’s age-old relationship to the Catholic Church.
The “epidemic of terrorism” has proved quite difficult for authorities to curtail, despite the French government stepping up its military action against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, imposing a state of emergency and reinforcing security to levels unheard of.
Investigations into the murder are underway, and French officials identified the second man involved in the attack as Abdel-Malik Nabil Petitjean, a 19-year-old from St.-Die-des-Voges, France.
Both Petitjean and the first suspect Adel Kermiche, also 19, were killed by police after taking three nuns and two churchgoers hostage on Wednesday at the church in St.-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Petitjean was already known to and earmarked by French authorities as radicalised and a potential Islamist militant, although few individuals, who knew him, begged to differ.
Djamel Tazghat, head of a local mosque in the southeastern town of Aix-les-Bains where Petitjean lived said of Petitjean that, “I liked him a lot. We never had a problem with him at the mosque. No strange observations, he was always smiling… It’s incredible.”
Neighbour Germany was also hit by a series of four attacks in one week, with two of them being the first in Germany claimed by the extremist Islamic State group.
In Bavaria, Mohammed Daleel died and 15 people were wounded when his bomb exploded outside a wine bar Sunday night after he was denied entry into a nearby open-air concert as he didn’t have a ticket.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the two men responsible for the Bavarian attacks had come to Germany as refugees and carried out attacks claimed by the ISIS – a fact which “mocks the country that took them in.”
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said that the Syrian asylum-seeker who blew himself up outside a bar in southern Germany was active in an online chat with a person in the Middle East, shortly before the explosion occurred.
Germany’s commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration Aydan Ozoguz called for mosques across the country to be more efficient in preventing radicalism among Muslim youth.
On Thursday Merkel pledged to clear up the “barbaric acts” and bring to justice those who orchestrated the attacks.
She added that Germany will do “everything humanly possible” to ensure security, and will “stick to our principles.”
She claimed that the attacks would not reverse their decision to take in refugees but proposed increased security measures including information sharing, deciphering web chatter and tackling arms sales on the internet.
She said, “Taboos of civilisation are being broken… I am still convinced today that ‘we can do it’ — it is our historic duty and this is a historic challenge in times of globalisation. We have already achieved very, very much in the last 11 months.”