Islamic State ‘soldiers’ slit priest’s throat in France church hostage taking, shot dead by police

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 5:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 10:57am

Two Islamic State ‘soldiers’ seized hostages on Tuesday in a church near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing a priest by slitting his throat before being shot and killed by police. A person in connection with the attacks has been arrested, a source close to the inquiry said.

“They carried out the operation in response to the call to target the countries of the crusader coalition,” the group’s Amaq news agency said in a statement.

Another person inside the church was seriously injured and is hovering between life and death, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

Police managed to rescue three people from the church in the small northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Brandet said. The hostage-taking occurred during morning Mass, he told reporters.

The identities of the attackers and motive for the attack are unclear, according to a security official, who was not authorised to be publicly named.

The source said between four and six people were held by the assailants in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

The motivations for the hostage-taking were not yet clear, but the Paris prosecutor’s office said the case had been handed to anti-terrorism judges for investigation.

The assailants’ motives remain unknown. Britain’s Telegraph reported that elite police units rushed to the church after the men seized the hostages which included a priest and two nuns.

Tuesday’s slaying inside a church “is obviously a drama for the Catholic community, for the Christian community,” Brandet told reporters.

French President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve were heading to the town.

Brandet, speaking on BFM TV, said the RAID special intervention force was searching the church and its perimeter for possible explosives and terrorism investigators had been summoned.

The incident comes as France is on high alert after a Bastille Day attack that killed 84 people in Nice and a series of deadly attacks last year claimed by the Islamic State group.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press