SAINT-ETIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY, France: The Islamic State group said yesterday that two of its “soldiers” stormed a French church and slit a priest’s throat, the latest attack in a country shaken to its core by repeated terror strikes. The hostage drama in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray comes less than two weeks after the truck massacre in the French Riviera city of Nice, which killed 84 people and was also claimed by IS.
Two attackers entered the centuries-old stone St-Etienne church, situated on a calm square in the working-class town of about 30,000 people, during morning mass. Sister Danielle, a nun who was in the church at the time, said elderly priest Jaques Hamel was wearing his white cloaks and was at the foot of the altar when “they forced him to get on his knees and not move”. “He tried to struggle, he tried,” she told local radio RMC. “He knew what was happening.”
She said the men were speaking Arabic and shouting and had “recorded” the attack. She managed to run away and alert the police. French President Francois Hollande said the men had claimed they were acting on behalf of the Islamic State group before being shot dead by police. Shortly afterwards the IS-linked Amaq news agency, citing a “security source”, said the perpetrators were “soldiers of the Islamic State who carried out the attack in response to calls to target countries of the Crusader coalition”. – AFP