Two terrorists with ties to the Islamic State killed a priest in his mid-80s in an attack on a church in northern France on Tuesday.
The two men, who The Wall Street Journal reported had pledged allegiance to ISIS, used knives to take five hostages during morning mass, including Father Jacques Hamel, an auxiliary priest at the church located in the northern French region of Normandy. Hamel was found with his throat slit. Another hostage is reportedly in critical condition.
The church was eventually surrounded by police, and the two attackers were killed as they attempted to leave.
French President François Hollande said that the attackers had sworn allegiance to ISIS. In a statement released by its Amaq news agency, ISIS claimed credit for the attack by its “soldiers” in retaliation for American-led attacks on the group’s “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq. In May, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani called on its adherents who could not travel to the Middle East, to instead attack targets at home.
In April 2015, French police arrested Sid Ahmed Ghlam, an Algerian who had allegedly received instructions from ISIS to attack a church. The church attacked on Tuesday was included on Ghlam’s list of churches to target, Le Figaro reported.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi called the attack on the church a “barbarous killing,” adding that Pope Francis “is informed and shares the pain and horror of this absurd violence.”
The attack on the Normandy church is the latest in series of European terror attacks that have been attributed to Islamic extremists since July 14, when a terrorist drove his truck through crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 84.
Other subsequent attacks included an ax attack on a German train, a shooting attack last Friday at a mall in Germany, and a suicide bomber who detonated himself near a music festival in Germany on Sunday.
Following the Nice attack, France’s national assembly voted to extend its state of emergency, originally declared last year, for another six months. The state of emergency was declared last November after 130 people were killed following a series of coordinated ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks at a Paris concert venue, soccer stadium, and restaurant. Other ISIS-connected terrorist attacks took place in Paris in January 2015, when 12 people were killed at the headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and four more killed at a kosher grocery store.
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