PARIS: Two teenaged jihadists attacked a French church and brutally murdered a priest in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray as the country was still mourning the Bastille Day killings in Nice claimed by IS.
Here is what we know so far about the church attack:
Two men arrived at the 17th century Eglise Saint-Etienne during morning mass, attacking the church and taking five hostages inside.
During the siege they killed an elderly priest by slitting his throat and seriously injured another captive.
The victim was Father Jacques Hamel, a semi-retired assistant parish priest, according to the archbishop of nearby Rouen, Dominique Lebrun.
Hamel was born in 1930 in Darnetal, a town near Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, and was ordained in 1958, according to information on the diocesan website.
It was the first jihadist attack on a church on French soil since IS carried out its first assaults in Syria’s war in 2013.
Some 65 percent of France’s population identify themselves as Catholics, according to the Ifop polling center. The country’s second-largest religion, Islam, has five million followers.
Taken down by police
After failed negotiations with a French police unit specializing in hostage situations, the BRI, the two attackers came out of the church behind three hostages, and rushed the officers shouting, “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
They were shot dead and the hostages were unharmed.
The scene was then secured by officers from France’s elite RAID unit, who found only fake explosive devices wrapped in tinfoil on the attackers.
Who were the attackers?
One of the attackers was identified as French teen Adel Kermiche, 19, who was awaiting trial on terror charges and had been fitted with an electronic tag despite calls from the prosecutor for him not to be released.
Kermiche, who was known to France’s anti-terrorism police, tried twice to go to Syria in 2015.
He had already threatened to attack a church, according to witness testimony collected in his neighborhood.
It later emerged he had described the modus operandi of the attack in a chilling message on encrypted messaging application Telegram.
“You take a knife, you go into a church. Bam!” said the message recorded just a few days before the attack, whose authenticity was confirmed by a source close to the investigation, according to L’Express.
Kermiche’s accomplice, Abdel Malik Petitjean, also 19, had only become known to intelligence services in June after trying to reach Syria from Turkey.
Petitjean was listed on France’s “Fiche S” system of people posing a potential threat to national security.
A video posted by the IS news agency Amaq showed Petitjean, speaking in French and Arabic, threatening France and directly addressing President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
In a separate video also posted by Amaq, the two attackers, calling themselves by the noms de guerre Abu Omar and Abu Jalil al-Hanafi, hold hands as they swear “obedience” to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Earlier this week, IS said the two assailants were its “soldiers” and the attack retribution for France’s fight against the jihadists in the Middle East. AFP