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France church attack: Isis supporters slit priest Jacques Hamel's throat on camera and forced nuns to watch

Published 26/07/2016

This picture obtained on the website of the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish on July 26, 2016 shows late priest Jacques Hamel celebrating a mass on June 11, 2016 in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy. AFP/Getty Images
This picture obtained on the website of the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish on July 26, 2016 shows late priest Jacques Hamel celebrating a mass on June 11, 2016 in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy. AFP/Getty Images
A vehicle of anti-terror Vigipirate plan, dubbed "Operation Sentinelle", is parked outside Saint-Jerome church in Toulouse, southwestern France on July 26, 2016, during a mass in tribute to the victims of the attack in the Normandy city of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray's church in which a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / ERIC CABANISERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images
People attend a mass at the Notre-Dame cathedral on July 26, 2016 in Paris, in memory of a priest killed earlier today in the Normandy city of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President Francois Hollande said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELTGEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
Hooded Police officers conduct a search in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, following an attack on a church that left a priest dead, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Police officers stand in front of a building during a search operation in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, following an attack on a church that left a priest dead, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
French policemen stand near an armoured vehicle of the French Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI) police during a search in a house on July 26, 2016 in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray after a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDREMATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images
A French policeman stands near an armoured vehicle of the French Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI) police during a search in a house on July 26, 2016 in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray after a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDREMATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images
French policemen stand in the street during a search in a house on July 26, 2016 in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray after a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAUCHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images
In this grab made from video, French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with police and security services personnel after arriving at the scene of the hostage situation in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers took hostages inside a French church during morning Mass on Tuesday near the city of Rouen, killing an 86-year-old priest by slitting his throat before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. (France Pool via AP)
French soldiers stand guard as they prevent the access to the scene of an attack in Saint Etienne du Rouvray, Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
French police officers prevent the access to the scene of an attack in Saint Etienne du Rouvray, Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
French soldiers stand guard near the scene of an attack in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
In this grab made from video, police officers close off a road during a hostage situation in Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers seized hostages in a church near the Normandy city of Rouen on Tuesday, killing one hostage by slitting their throat before being killed by police, a security official said. The identities of the attackers and motive for the attack are unclear, according to the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named. (BFM via AP)
In this grab made from video, police officers speak to a driver as they close off a road during a hostage situation in Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers seized hostages in a church near the Normandy city of Rouen on Tuesday, killing one hostage by slitting their throat before being killed by police, a security official said. The identities of the attackers and motive for the attack are unclear, according to the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named. (BFM via AP)
French policemen stand outside a house during a search in a house on July 26, 2016 in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray after a priest was killed in the latest of a string of attacks against Western targets claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group. French President said that two men who attacked a church and slit the throat of a priest had "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group. Police said they killed two hostage-takers in the attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 125 kilometres (77 miles) north of Paris. / AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDREMATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images
French police officers stand guard in front of the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray's city hall, Normandy, France, after an attack on a church that left a priest dead, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Police officers conduct a search in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, following an attack on a church that left a priest dead, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Two knifemen who had pledged allegiance to Isis forced two nuns to watch as they filmed themselves slitting the throat of a French priest while they performed "a sort of sermon", it has emerged.

The two killers reportedly demanded 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel kneel before them while they carried out the atrocity at the church at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen.

He had retired aged 75 but helped out when necessary – and was reportedly standing in for the regular priest, Father Auguste Moanda-Phuati, when two men wielding knives burst into the church at 9.43am French time on Tuesday.

He was killed in front of two nuns and two worshippers after all five were taken hostage. 

Speaking on RMC - a French radio station, Sister Danielle, who escaped the scene said: "They forced him to his knees. He wanted to defend himself. And that's when the tragedy happened."

"They recorded themselves. They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It's a horror," she later told BFM television.

Sister Danielle - who described the clergyman as a "great priest" - said she fled at the moment the attackers killed him.

Born in the Rouen area, Father Hamel was ordained in 1958 and was assistant priest in the parish of St Etienne.

His killing has prompted calls for a fast-tracked sainthood for murdered clergyman. 

Italian politician Roberto Maroni urged the Pope to make the him ‘St Jacques’.

In an appeal circulated on social media, the president of the Lombard region said: “Father Jacques is a martyr of faith”.

The hashtag #saintosubito  - #saintimmediately - began trending on Twitter as people expressed horror at the incident.

One neighbour told weekly French magazine L'Express: “This was a man who did his job to the very end. He was old, but always available for everyone. He was a good priest. He had been here for many years; he lived in the rectory here. Many parishioners knew him very well.”

A statement issued by the archdiocese of Rouen said. “This man was a good man.”

Eulalie Garcia, who works in a beauty parlour on the same road as the church, told reporters he had taught her about Catholicism as a young girl.

"My family has lived here for 35 years and we have always known him," she said.

"He was someone who was treasured by the community. He was very discreet and didn't like to draw attention to himself."

French newspaper Le Figaro reported the church was suspected to have been on a list of Catholic places of worship in the area around Paris drawn up as possible targets by Sid Ahmed Ghlam, an Algerian student arrested last year on suspicion of murdering a mother-of-one during a botched attempt to attack a church in Villejuif.

Confirming Father Hamel's death, the Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, who cut short a visit to Poland to return to his diocese, said: "I cry to God with all men of good will. The only arms which the Catholic Church can take up are prayer and brotherhood between men."

Independent

Archbishop Eamon Martin offers solidarity and condolences

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin has written to Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, the Archbishop of Rouen, France, to express his shock, to offer condolences and to express the prayerful solidarity of the Church in Ireland following the horrific attack.

Archbishop Eamon said he was deeply moved by Archbishop Lebrun’s own words earlier today when he said that the “only weapons that we can take up” as Catholics “are prayer and fraternity among peoples” and his call for people “not to give up in the face of violence but to become apostles of the civilisation of love”.

Archbishop Eamon has assured Archbishop Lebrun of his prayers for the repose of the soul of Father Jacques, for those injured in the attack, and for the community of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Attacker 'tried to go to Syria'

One of the men who attacked a Normandy church, killing an 85-year-old priest, twice used relatives' ID cards in attempts to reach Syria, France's anti-terrorism prosecutor has said.

Adel Kermiche, 19, was wearing an electronic surveillance bracelet when he and another attacker slit the throat of a priest in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

Kermiche and the other assailant were killed by police.

Mr Molins said the bracelet was deactivated for a few hours every morning, corresponding with the time of the attack.

He said Kermiche was arrested in Germany in March 2015 trying to join extremists in Syria using his brother's ID, and was then arrested in Turkey two months later using a cousin's ID.

Mr Molins said another person who was injured in the attack is no longer in a life-threatening condition.

Earlier, a family friend had said Kermiche was a local youth whose parents flagged his radical behaviour to authorities.

Jonathan Sacarabany said Kermiche grew up in a housing project in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Kermiche had a sister who is a doctor in the nearby city of Rouen, and a brother, the family friend said. Their mother is a professor.

The family alerted authorities to his radicalism to try to stop him from going to Syria, Mr Sacarabany said.

Mr Molins said the attackers carried fake explosives and used nuns as human shields.

He said they claimed allegiance to Islamic State and shouted "Allahu Akbar" during the attack.

A 16-year-old, believed to be the younger brother of someone wanted by police for trying to go to Syria or Iraq in 2015, has also been detained as part of the investigation.

Mr Molins confirmed police raids are still under way.

Independent News Service

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