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Men who killed 84-year-old priest in church "claimed to be from Islamic State"

A second hostage is “between life and death” according to officials.

Updated at 12.45pm 

A PRIEST HAS been killed after men armed with knives seized hostages at a church near the northern French city of Rouen.

Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres north of Paris.

A priest – aged 84 – was killed and another hostage was “between life and death”, France’s interior ministry said.

French President Francois Hollande said in the last hour that two armed men had “claimed to be from Daesh”, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group.

Hollande, visiting the scene of the attack in the northern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, earlier condemned the “vile terrorist attack” in a statement.

r1 Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray is just south of the city of Rouen. Source: Google Maps

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 incident comes as France remains on high alert nearly two weeks after Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 84.


It’s reported that a priest and two nuns, as well as mass-goers, were taken hostage. Another nun raised the alarm, it’s believed.

It was initially reported that the hostage takers were ‘neutralised’ in a police operation staged to end the stand-off.

police A police cordon near the scene of the attack. Source: Sky News

Sealed off 

Footage showed several emergency vehicles at the scene and the streets sealed off.

The Nice attack was the third major strike on France in 18 months and was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Two attacks in Germany claimed by the Islamic State group since then have also increased jitters in Europe.

After the attack in Nice, France extended a state of emergency giving police extra powers to carry out searches and place people under house arrest for another six months until January.

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Pope Francis has expressed his “pain and horror” at the hostage-taking and the killing of the priest.

“The pope… participates in the pain and horror of this absurd violence,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, adding that Francis had been particularly appalled by the “barbaric killing” because it happened in a sacred place.

Church attacks 

France has been concerned about the threat against churches ever since a foiled plot against in the Paris suburb of Villejuif in April last year.

Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a 24-year-old Algerian IT student, was arrested in Paris on suspicion of killing a woman who was found shot dead in the passenger seat of her car, and of planning an attack on a church.

Prosecutors say they found documents about Al-Qaeda and IS at his home, and that he had been in touch with a suspected jihadist in Syria about an attack on a church.

© – AFP 2016 with reporting by Daragh Brophy. 

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