Attackers Who Killed Priest at Church in France
'Claimed Allegiance to ISIS,' Hollande Says
The attackers who killed a priest at a church in France this morning were "terrorists who claimed allegiance to ISIS," French President Francois Hollande said.
ISIS’s “news agency” Amaq said the attack in Normandy was carried about by "soldiers of the Islamic State" and that the attack was "in response to calls for attacks on the Crusader alliance.”
Hollande said the terrorists want to “divide us” and said the attack targeted not just Catholics but all of France. Hollande said the terrorists will stop at nothing, adding, "We must rage war against Daesh (ISIS)."
One person was detained for questioning in connection with the attack, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office said. An investigation into the incident has been opened.
The attack began when two men armed with knives entered a church in the city of Rouen -- about 80 miles outside of Paris -- during morning mass and took five people hostage, including a nun and parishioners.
A priest was killed and one person was seriously injured, said the Ministry of Interior.
Both attackers were killed outside the church, said a spokesperson for the French interior minister.
The priest was identified by the archbishop as Jacques Hamel.
People took to Twitter to mourn the slain priest. One woman said she was baptized by him, while another Twitter user said the priest recently christened her young cousin.
A nun who was in the church told French TV the priest was forced to his knees before he was attacked with the knife, The Associated Press reported.
“He wanted to defend himself,” said the nun, identified as Sister Danielle. "He was a great priest.”
The mayor’s office in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray said the church had not received specific threats.
Hollande said he spoke to the family of the priest who was killed. He also praised the police for their quick response, which he said saved lives.
The mayor’s office in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray said in a statement: “A barbaric act was committed in our town this morning. Our priest was assassinated, and a hostage was severely injured. We are devastated. This emotion goes beyond our town. It plunges our entire country in a deep pain, only days after the attack in Nice.
"The mayor and the entire municipality calls upon you all that are attached to the values of our republic to come and express your emotion, pain and indignation," the mayor's office added.
A registry of condolences has been set up and residents can leave flowers or candles on the steps of City Hall, the mayor's office said. Town officials are also expected to meet tonight to discuss a public ceremony for the victims, the mayor's office said.
Flags will be flown at half-mast throughout the municipality, the mayor’s office added.
The Vatican called the situation an act of "absurd violence" and said that Pope Francis strongly condemned "every form of hate" and "prayed" for the victims affected.
NSC spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. offers condolences "to the family and friends of the murdered priest, Father Jacques Hamel."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the other victims of the attack as well as the parishioners and community members," Price said.
"France and the United States share a commitment to protecting religious liberty for those of all faiths, and today's violence will not shake that commitment. We commend French law enforcement for their quick and decisive response and stand ready to assist the French authorities in their investigation going forward," Price said.