France: Catholic priest killed by ‘Islamic State soldiers’ in Normandy

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A Catholic priest has been killed and another person seriously injured in an attack by two armed men on his church near Rouen in Normandy, northern France.

Two men, armed with knives, entered the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during morning Mass, and took the 84-year-old priest Fr Jacques Hamel and four other people hostage.

Witnesses reported hearing gunfire as police arrived on the scene and the priest was critically wounded.

French interior ministry spokesman, Pierre-Henri Brandet said the two attackers had been “neutralised” as they came out of the building.

Police have cordoned off the area and are searching the church for explosives.

The investigation into the incident is being led by anti-terrorism prosecutors, but the details of the hostage-takers have not yet been released by authorities.

The Islamic State’s official Amaq news agency says that the attack was carried out by “two soldiers of the Islamic State”, but the claim has not been confirmed by French investigators.

President Francois Hollande has arrived in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray to be briefed by police.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his horror at the attack, saying:

“Horror at the barbaric attack on a church of Seine-Maritime. The whole France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together.”

The incident is the latest in a series of attacks in France and Germany, including a bombing outside a German music festival in Ansbach on Sunday and a lorry killing 80 people on Bastille Day in Nice earlier this month.

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