Another suspected terror attack has rocked France, and this time, a priest has been killed in a church near Normandy.
According to BBC News, the hostage takers, who have not yet been identified, were holding between four and six hostages. Among those held were the murdered priest, Father Jacques Hamel, and two nuns, in addition to churchgoers.
France has been on high alert since before the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice, and this suspected terror attack where a priest was killed near Normandy is currently being investigated by France’s national counter-terrorism task force (SDAT) and the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) intelligence agency, according to Independent.
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That said, there has been no claims of responsibility by any terror group thus far for the Normandy siege.
Haaretz reports that French president Francois Hollande is en route to the site of the attack, which occurred in Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray, approximately an hour and a half from Normandy. Normandie Actu reports that in addition to the priest that was killed, there is another hostage that is quite seriously injured, according to Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesperson for the Minister for the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve.
Daily Record reports that Father Jacques Hamel, an 86-year-old priest that was officiating services prior to the terror attack, was killed when one of the hostage takers reportedly yelled “Daesh” and slit his throat. The alert was raised about the attack when a third nun escaped the church and notified police.
The area around the church has since been cordoned off and people are urged to give a wide berth to the town not far from Normandy as the investigation is conducted, according to Daily Record.
Le Figaro reports that Geoffroy Didier, vice president of the LR region Île-de-France, stated the attack on the church was really an attack at the heart of France.
“Let’s be clear: targeting a church is wanting to tackle the deepest roots of France,” he said.
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Express reports that Father Jacques Hamel, the priest killed in the church attack near Normandy, was a much-loved priest in the area whose discretion was a source of pride.
“He was someone who was treasured by the community,” said Eulalie Garcia, who works near the church. “He was very discreet and didn’t like to draw attention to himself.”
Le Figaro also notes that Father Jacques Hamel had been at the church for over 20 years and had been set to run church services at the church near Normandy throughout July.
Express notes that because of reports that said the killer yelled “Daesh” prior to slitting the priest’s throat, local media is being questioned. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State and considered derogatory, raising questions that it would actually have been used by supporters of the group.
If investigators do believe there is evidence that the Normandy church siege was a terror attack, it would mark the first time that those inspired by ISIS would have targeted a church. While Le Figaro reported, according to Daily Record, that one of the hostage takers had a beard and was wearing a “chachia” skullcap — similar to that worn by some Muslims — there is currently nothing disclosed by investigators that indicates the church siege where beloved priest Father Jacques Hamel was killed was a terror attack.
Independent reports that France has been on high alert since the bombings and shootings in Paris in November 2015, and this church attack where a priest was killed near Normandy only marks the latest potential terror attack to hit France since the Bastille Day attacks in Nice two weeks ago.
[Luca Bruno/AP Photo]