ISIL claims deadly attacks in France and Germany
Members of French special police forces of Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI) are seen during a raid after a hostage-taking in the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen in Normandy, France, July 26, 2016. REUTERS photoThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has claimed the deadly attacks in the past three days in France and Germany, two weeks after the jihadists also claimed the truck attack in the French Riviera city of Nice that killed 84 people.
ISIL said July 26 that two of its “soldiers” had attacked a French church in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, slitting a priest’s throat in a country stunned by a series of jihadist attacks.
French President Francois Hollande said the two men who stormed a church before killing the elderly Catholic priest had claimed allegiance to ISIL before being shot dead by police.
“Daesh [ISIL] has declared war on us. We must fight this war by all means while respecting the rule of law, which makes us a democracy,” Hollande told reporters at the scene south of Rouen.
Shortly afterwards the ISIL-linked Amaq news agency, citing a “security source,” said the perpetrators were “soldiers of the Islamic State [ISIL] who carried out the attack in response to calls to target countries of the crusader coalition.”
The two attackers stormed the church during morning mass, taking five people inside hostage, including the priest, French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said.
He said the church was surrounded by police from the elite BRI unit, which specializes in kidnappings, and that “the two assailants came out and were killed by police.”
The priest died after his throat was slit, sources close to the investigation told AFP.
The archbishop of the nearby city of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, named the priest as 84-year-old Jacques Hamel, although the website of the archdiocese states he was born in 1930.
Three of the hostages were freed unharmed, and another was fighting for their life, said Brandet.
Pope Francis condemned in the strongest terms the attack on the Catholic church.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement July 26 that the attack hit 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 and the involvement of the faithful.”
Lombardi called the attack “more terrible news that adds to a series of violence in these days that have left us upset, creating immense pain and worry,” according to the Associated Press.
The pope, he said, has expressed “pain and horror for this absurd violence, with the strongest condemnation for every form of hatred, and prayer for those affected.”
Meanwhile, a Syrian asylum-seeker who blew himself up outside a German music festival had made a video pledging allegiance to ISIL, authorities said on July 25, in the second attack claimed by the jihadists in Germany in a week.
The 27-year-old assailant wounded 15 people, four of them seriously, near a cafe in the southern city of Ansbach on the night of July 24 when he set off a bomb in his rucksack, killing himself.
“A video made by the assailant was found on his mobile phone in which he threatened an attack,” Bavarian state interior minister Joachim Herrmann told reporters.
“After that he announced in the name of Allah that he pledged allegiance to [ISIL chief] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the well-known Islamist leader, and announced an act of revenge against Germans because they were standing in the way of Islam.”
ISIL later said via the jihadist-linked Amaq news agency that the attacker “was a soldier of the Islamic State” who had acted “in response to calls to target nations in the coalition fighting” the extremists.