Police have shot dead two men who took an 84-year-old priest. Rev. Father Jacques Hamel and several others hostage at knifepoint at a church in Saint-Etienne-du Rouvray, Normandy north-western France.
The men shouted “Daesh” and slit the priest’s throat before being “neutralised,” police said.
Le Figaro newspaper reported that the priest died after his throat was cut. The second victim is in critical condition.
The attack happened during morning Mass at the church, situated in a quiet square of St-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
A nun, who identified herself as Sister Danielle, said she was in the church at the time.
“They forced him (Fr Hamel) to his knees. He wanted to defend himself, and that’s when the tragedy happened,” she told French media.
“They recorded themselves. They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It’s a horror”.
Sister Danielle said she managed to escape when the assailants were preparing to kill Fr. Hamel.
A defiant French President, Francois Hollande in a short address to the nation promised to defeat terror by “all means possible”. He said: “Daesh has declared war on us. We have to win that war.
“Terrorists will not give up on anything until we stop them”
Meanwhile, the media wing of the terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility and described the attackers as “ISIS soldiers”.
The Vatican released a statement saying that Pope Francis is horrified.
Fr. Hamel was ordained a priest in 1958 and had in fact retired 10 years ago but asked to stay on as auxiliary priest.