Churches in Britain placed on terror alert after murder of French priest by Islamic State

July 27, 2016 7:00 am

’s
intelligence agencies have said a terrorist attack in the is “highly
likely”, urging churches to review their security following attacks in
other parts of . Photo/File

Churches in Britain have been told to tighten security after the murder of an 85-year-old priest in Normandy yesterday.
Despite
there being no specific intelligence relating to attacks against the
Christian community in the UK, the country’s National Police Chiefs’
Council is urging the community to be alert but not alarmed, report
concerns and review their security as a precaution.
Two
, proclaimed as “soldiers” by the Islamic State group, stormed
the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a working-class town near
Rouen, northwest of Paris, during morning mass yesterday and cut the
throat of Father Jacques Hamel after taking worshippers including two
nuns hostage.

Father Hamel – forced to kneel by his two killers who were later shot dead by police – was hailed as a “martyr of faith”.
One of the pair of knifemen has been named as known terror threat Adel Kermiche.
The
19-year-old “Isis soldier” was being monitored with an electronic tag
after he was arrested twice for attempting to flee France to join the
terror group in Syria.
Despite having been released early from prison,
Kermiche’s bail conditions allowed him to roam freely between 8.30am and
12.30pm. The attack happened between 9am and 11am.

Neil
Basu, the UK’s Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner, said: “There is no
specific intelligence relating to attacks against the Christian
community in the UK. However, as we have seen, Daesh and other terrorist
groups have targeted Christian as well as Jewish and other faith groups
in the West and beyond.
“Following recent events in France, we
are reiterating our protective security advice to Christian places of
worship and have circulated specific advice today. We are also taking
this opportunity to remind them to review their security arrangements as
a precaution.”
“While the threat from remains unchanged at severe we urge the public to be vigilant.”
Following
the attack, religious leaders, including those from the Muslim
community, have issued messages of sympathy and solidarity in the wake
of the killing.
“Evil attacks the weakest, denies truth and love,
is defeated through Jesus Christ. Pray for France, for victims, for
their communities,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Photo/Foreign and Commonwealth Office

In a statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis shared the “sorrow and horror” felt over the incident.
It
added: “We are particularly struck because this horrible violence has
occurred in a church – a sacred place where we pronounce God’s love –
with the barbaric murder of a priest and worshippers affected.”

The
church that was targeted in Normandy had been on a “hit list” found on a
24-year-old Algerian jihadi who had planned attacks last year in a
Parisian suburb. Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a computer sciences student, was
arrested by French police who are investigating whether he was directed
to carry out attacks on churches by Islamic State.
Britain’s
intelligence agencies have said a terrorist attack in the UK is “highly
likely” following attacks in other parts of Europe.
A five-judge
tribunal was told the seriousness of the threat as the spy agencies
defended themselves against accusations of engaging in the mass
collection of communications data and UK citizens’ personal information
without proper legal safeguards being in place.
Security was also
increased last year at Jewish sites in Britain after the attacks
against Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket in Paris.

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