الثلاثاء، 26 يوليو، 2016

Priest killed in French church attack claimed by IS

Police and emergency services cordoned off the scene
Police and emergency services cordoned off the scene
Priest killed in attack at French church
Priest killed in attack at French church
A priest has been killed during an attack in a church in France's northern Normandy region, police said.       
Another hostage was seriously injured and is "fighting for life" according to the country's interior ministry, while a second hostage was lightly wounded.
The archbishop of the nearby city of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, named the priest as 84-year-old Jacques Hamel, who had served the community of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray as parish priest for around 20 years.
It is believed the attack took place as he was celebrating mass.
The two hostage takers, whose identity and motives are still unknown, were killed in a police operation that ended the assault at the church, a spokesman for the interior ministry said.
President Francois Hollande, who arrived at the scene with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, said the attackers had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the so-called Islamic State group.
The group’s Amaq news agency issued a statement claiming its "soldiers" carried out the attack.
Mr Hollande condemned the "vile terrorist attack" on the church and the cowardly assassination of the priest.
The president said "we have to fight this war with all means possible" adding that tomorrow he will meet with leaders of all religions in France to ensure cohesion in the fight against terror.
The Vatican has condemned the "barbarous killing" of Fr Hamel, saying Pope Francis was horrified by the news.
"We are particularly shocked because this horrible violence took place in a church, in which God's love is announced," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.
         
He said the pope was feeling "the pain and horror of this absurd violence" and "condemned in the most radical way any form of hate".
Officers from the elite anti-terrorist Raid squad were called in to assist local police after the two assailants began their assault by taking five people hostage inside the church.
A number of shots were heard over a period of around 15 seconds as the incident came to an end around 11am local time (10am Irish time), some 40 minutes after it began.
"At one point, the two assailants came out of the church and that's when they were killed by the BRI elite force," Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told France Info radio.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls branded the attack "barbaric" and said it was a blow to all Catholics and the whole of France.
"We will stand together," Mr Valls said on Twitter.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the attack as "particularly brutal".
Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street, he said: "For centuries the Church has always been a place of sanctuary and it's particularly brutal that terror and murder have been visited upon innocent people at a time when they have been so physically vulnerable and so spiritually hopeful."
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar also condemned the attack on behalf of the Government.
Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, he said that "only cowards attack people at prayer".
Mr Varadkar said Ireland stands in solidarity with the French and extends its condolences to all of the people of France.
British Prime Minister Theresa May offered her condolences to the people of France after the "sickening" attack.
France's anti-terrorist prosecution unit said it had taken over the investigation into the Normandy attack.
In an impromptu press conference at the scene, Mr Brandet said that a careful investigation of the church building was being conducted by anti-terrorist officers, using sniffer dogs to ensure that no bombs had been left behind by the hostage-takers as booby-traps.
The scene was being investigated by forensic officers, in an operation which was expected to last throughout the day, he said.
Mr Brandet said: "I will not talk about the motives of these individuals.
"I cannot tell you more about the persons who have been seriously injured and who have been assassinated, for the simple reason that investigations are ongoing and the explosive sniffer dogs are carrying out their work.
"We face a dramatic situation that we have to face up to once again, less than two weeks following the Nice tragedy."
Mr Brandet was unable to say whether the hostage-takers had firearms.
"The investigation will continue throughout the day," he said.
"We are at the start of the operation. The priority was to make sure we got the assailants and rescued as many hostages as possible.
"Unfortunately the toll has been extremely high. One person was assassinated and another was seriously injured."
"Horror. Everything is being done to trigger a war of religions," tweeted Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former conservative prime minister who now heads the Senate's foreign affairs committee. 
National Front leader Marine le Pen said: "More horror at Saint Etienne du Rouvray. The modus operandi obviously leads one to fear a new attack by Islamist terrorists."
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also condemned the attack and called for prayers for the victims and for France.
The attack comes 12 days after a 31-year-old Tunisian killed 84 people in the French Riviera city of Nice when he ploughed his heavy goods truck into a crowd of revellers during Bastille Day celebrations on 14 July.
The so-called Islamic State claimed that attack.
French MPs approved a six-month extension of emergency rule after the Nice attack while the Socialist government also said it would step up strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.