France hostage situation: Isis attackers killed

July 27, 2016 12:00 pm

One of a pair of knifemen who stormed a church in Normandy
before slitting the throat of an elderly priest 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 for twice
attempting to flee to join the terror group in Syria.
Despite
having been released early from prison, Keriche’s bail conditions
allowed him to roam freely between 8.30am and 12.30pm. The attack
happened between 9am and 11am.

Adel Kermiche (pictured in 2011), 19, has been named as one of the two ISIS knifemen who stormed into a church in Normandy.
He and his accomplice – also known to French police –
forced 84-year-old Jacques Hamel to kneel before filming themselves
slicing his throat and performing a ‘sermon in Arabic’ at the altar of
the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, according to witnesses.
Both
were shot dead by police marksmen as they emerged from the building
shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ following the attack that also left a nun
critically injured.
A third man, a 17-year-old known as HB and
believed to be a relative of Kermiche, was arrested at his home in
Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray following the attack.
The revelation –
made to the French TV channel I-Tele – will cause further outrage
in a country devastated by constant security failings.
French
President Francois Hollande, who visited the scene today, said the
country is now ‘at war’ with ISIS after the terror group claimed
responsibility for the attack.

This is an undated image of French Priest Jacques Hamel who was killed in his church by men claiming to be from Isis. Photo / AP
“They forced him to his knees. He wanted to defend himself.
And that’s when the tragedy happened,” said the nun, identified as
Sister Danielle, according to BFM television. “They recorded themselves.
They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It’s a horror.”
Islamic
State has claimed responsibility for the savage attack. According to
security sources, one of the attackers was a 19-year-old convicted
terrorist living with his parents and who forced to wear an electronic
tag, The Sun reports.
The Catholic church was also on a terrorist
“hit list” that French police have reportedly known about since April
2015 following the arrest of an extremist in Paris.
Tuesday’s
chilling assault was the first known attack inside a French church in
recent times. A church was targeted last year, but the attack was never
carried out.

The church in Saint Etienne du Rouvray, Normandy, France. Photo / AP
A statement published by the Islamic State-affiliated Amaq
news agency said the attack was carried out by “two soldiers of the
Islamic State” who acted in response to calls to target nations in the
US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.
The hostage
stand-off occurred at the Saint-Etienne parish church, when the two
beared men with knives entered the church through a back door and took
five people hostage – including a Catholic priest, two nuns and two
other worshippers – for at least an hour.
Gunfire was heard, and the men were shot and “neutralised” by police called to the scene.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said police managed to rescue the only three other people inside the church.
According
to French media reports in Le Point, sources said the assailants
shouted “Daesh”, an Arabic word in its own right meaning ‘a group of
bigots who impose their will on others’.
A sixth person reportedly escaped and managed to raise the alarm of a hostage situation underway.
The RAID special intervention force was searching for possible explosives in or around the church.
“The
investigations are ongoing. There are still unknowns,” Brandet said.
“There are dogs, explosive detectors and bomb disposal services and as
long as there are still unknowns, the judicial police cannot get inside
the site. It’s a dramatic situation.”

Police conduct a search in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray following an attack on a church that left a priest dead. Photo / AP
Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, confirmed the death of Father Hamel.
“I
cry out to God, with all men of good will. And I invite all
nonbelievers to unite with this cry,” Lebrun wrote in a statement from
Krakow, Poland, where Pope Francis was expected.
“The Catholic Church has no other arms besides prayer and fraternity between men.”
French
President Francois Hollande, arriving on the scene, called it a “vile
terrorist attack” and said it’s one more sign that France is at war with
IS, which has claimed a string of attacks on France.
“We must
lead this war with all our means,” he said, adding that he was calling a
meeting on Wednesday of representatives of all religions.
He
expressed solidarity with local Catholics, saying “they have been
terribly hit by the killing of the parish priest by two
claiming to belong to Daesh. I have met with the family of the priest.”
A
police official said one of the attackers was turned back after trying
to go to Syria. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to
reveal details of the investigation, said the man wore an electronic
bracelet to monitor his movements.
Mohammed Karabila, head of the
Regional Council of the Muslim Faith for Haute-Normandie, said French
security services knew the name of one of the attackers.
“The
person who committed this odious act is known and he has been followed
by the police for at least 1.5 years. He went to Turkey and security
services were alerted after this,” he told The Associated Press by
phone. He refused to divulge man’s name and had no information on the
second attacker.
Pope Francis condemned the attack in the strongest terms.
Vatican
spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said in a statement the
attack hits particularly hard “because this horrific violence took place
in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is announced, and
the barbaric murder of a priest.”
France is on high alert and
under a state of emergency after an attack in the southern city of Nice
on Bastille Day – July 14 – that killed 84 people that was claimed by
Islamic State, as well as a series of attacks last year that killed 147
others around Paris.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted:
“I am horrified by the barbaric attack on the church in Seine-Maritime.
All of France and her Catholic citizens have been wounded. We stand in
solidarity.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet
said on France-Info radio that anti- investigators have been
summoned in the case.
Police checked the church for explosives or
booby-traps and forensic officers are taking fingerprints and DNA
evidence, he also said.
Eulalie Garcia, who works in a beauty
parlour on the same road as the church, told reporters that she knew the
priest, who had taught her the catechism 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.”
She said she was very shocked by the death of the priest, who lived opposite his church.
Islamic
State extremists have urged followers to attack French churches and the
group is believed to have planned at least one church attack earlier.

French President Francois Hollande shakes
hands with police and security services personnel after arriving at the
scene of the hostage situation. Photo / AP
The attack once again demonstrates the challenge of
combating the threat. French authorities increased security at churches,
synagogues, mosques and other places of worship after attacks in Paris
last year, but ensuring constant, blanket security is difficult in a
country with a church in every town and village.
In April 2015,
an Algerian student who was arrested after shooting himself in the leg
was found with heavy weapons, bulletproof vests and documents linked to
Islamic State.
He is charged with killing a young woman inside
her car the same day. According to French authorities, the suspect, Sid
Ahmed Ghlam, was sent by the Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud to attack a
church in Villejuif, just outside of Paris.
A cell directed by
Abaaoud later carried out the November 13 attacks in Paris that left 130
people dead and the March 22 attacks in Brussels that killed 32 people.

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