ISIS has claimed responsibility for the France church attack in which 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel was beheaded while attending morning mass. Two armed men enter the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a 17th-century church in Normandy, and held the priest and four others hostage.
In a statement released by ISIS to the Amaq News agency, it stated,” The two executors on the attack in Normandy, France were soldiers of the Islamic State. They executed the operation in response to calls to target countries belonging to the crusader coalition.”
According to News.com.au, French President Francois Hollande confirmed that ISIS was responsible for the attack.
President Francois Hollande said, “[T]he deadly hostage incident at the Catholic church in the Normandy region was a terror attack committed in the name of ISIS. To attack a church, kill a priest, is to profane the republic. What terrorists want is to divide us, separate us, set us against each other.”
Sister Daniele Delafosse, who was attending mass at the French church when the attack happened stated that “they then forced Father Hamel to his knees and placed a knife to his neck as congregants pleaded with them to stop. They were filming the takeover, and that they gathered around the church altar to perform a religious oration in Arabic,” CNN reported.
“One of the killers wore a fake explosive belt, and the other carried a kitchen timer and fake bomb. One of them shouted, ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they left the church,” Sister Daniele Delafosse continued.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor, Francois Molins, identified one of the attackers in the church as 18-year-old Algerian-born Adel Kermiche. His family warned the French authorities about Kermiche’s radicalization to try and stop him from going to Syria. Adel Kermiche had grown up in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, told Vatican Radio that he denounced the brutal attack in the French church.
Father Jacques Hamel was born in 1930 and was a priest for more than 50 years. Father Hamel retired 10 years ago but stayed on at the church to help people. Even in retirement, Father Hamel sometimes held mass, as he was at the time of his death.
According to BBC News, Father Moanda-Phuati, who was away from the French church at the time of the attack stated, “He was a courageous priest for his age. Priests have the right to retire at 75 years- old, but he preferred to work in the service of the people because he still felt strong. He was very popular, a good man, simple and without extravagance. We benefited greatly from his experience and wisdom at the parish of Saint-Etienne. He served people for most of his life.”
Adel Kermiche killed Father Jacques Hamel during a four-hour period of unsupervised release that Kermiche was granted following a previous terrorist conviction. He had been ordered to wear an electronic device so law enforcement authorities could monitor his whereabouts. Adel Kermiche was born in Algeria and had grown up in the French town.
From October 2015 to February 2016, Adel Kermiche underwent a psychological examination, according to the Telegraph. The report claims that Kermiche had mental problems and suffered from depression.
Adel Kermiche stated in defense of the findings, “I am a Muslim grounded in the values of mercy, and goodness – I am not an extremist.”
Adel Kermiche and one other attacker were killed by police when they arrived at the church. The other attacker has not been identified yet.
The attack on the church in France was the fourth ISIS attack in less than two weeks. During the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, 84 people were killed and 202 were injured when Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, drove an 18-wheeler truck through a crowd of people. According to French authorities, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had been planning the attack for over a year.
Since the beginning of 2016, 208 people have been killed and 87 people have been injured in ISIS-related attacks in France.
Security has been placed around the French church where the attacked occurred while police continue to investigate the killing. One nun who was also injured in the church attack remains in critical condition.
[Photo by Francois Mori/AP Images]