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A picture of late Father Jacques Hamel is placed on flowers at the makeshift memorial in front of the city hall close to the church where he was killed. Francois Mori/AP/Press Association Images

Men who killed French priest pledge allegiance to Islamic State in video

The young men hold hands as they swear “obedience” to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

TWO JIHADISTS WHO attacked a French church and killed a priest pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State group in a video made public today.

The attack is the third in two weeks in France and Germany in which jihadists have pledged allegiance to the group, increasing fears in Europe over young, often unstable men being lured by IS propaganda and calls to carry out attacks in their home countries.

IS also claimed that Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who killed 84 people when he ploughed a truck into a crowd in the French city of Nice on 14 July, was one of their “soldiers”, however no direct link has been found.

France was still deep in mourning over the massacre when two men stormed into a church in the northern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during morning mass yesterday and slit the 86-year-old priest’s throat at the altar before being gunned down by police.

Another man was left seriously injured in a hostage drama, while three nuns and a worshipper escaped unharmed.

One of the attackers was identified as French jihadist 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.

Sources close to the investigation said they found an identity card belonging to one Abdel Malik P, also 19, at Kermiche’s home, who they believe is the second attacker.

They said Abdel Malik “strongly resembles” a man hunted by anti-terrorism police in the days before the attack over fears he was about to carry out an act of terror.

In a video posted on the IS news agency Amaq, two bearded men, calling themselves by the names Abu Omar and Abu Jalil al-Hanafi, hold hands as they swear “obedience” to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

‘God of death’

Meanwhile, President Francois Hollande, members of his government and opposition rivals gathered together at the symbolic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris for a mass attended by Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders to pay tribute to the murdered priest.

The moving gathering provided a rare show of unity and respite from days of political sniping over the repeat attacks, which right-wing parties say are due to the Socialist government’s failure to protect citizens.

france French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with Paris Mosque rector Dalil Boubakeur, left, after a meeting with religious representatives at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Thomas Padilla / AP/Press Association Images Thomas Padilla / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

“Those who drape themselves in the finery of religion to hide their deadly project, those who tell us of a god of death, a moloch (false god) who rejoices in the death of man and promises heaven to those that kill by invoking him. They cannot hope that man gives in to their illusion,” Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois said at the service.

The mass came after a meeting earlier in the day between Hollande and top religious leaders who warned French people against being drawn in by IS efforts to pit different believers against each other.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned that the goal of the attack, claimed by Islamic State jihadists, was to “set the French people against each other, attack religion in order to start a war of religions”.

In an editorial, Le Monde newspaper wrote that France was under attack as it had one of the biggest Muslim communities in Europe.

“The jihadists’ aim is to provoke violent revenge attacks that will create a religious war in our country,” it said.

Pope Francis said “the world is at war” but argued that religion was not the cause.

“When I speak of war I speak of wars over interests, money, resources, not religion. All religions want peace, it’s the others who want war.”

© AFP 2016

Read: Anti-terror police warn UK Christians following French church attack

Read: France church attack: Jihadist was under house arrest

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