• France's news in English
What we know about the attack on the French church
Photo: AFP

What we know about the attack on the French church

The Local · 26 Jul 2016, 14:15

Published: 26 Jul 2016 14:15 GMT+02:00
Updated: 26 Jul 2016 14:15 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
What actually happened?
At around 10am on Tuesday, two men armed with knives entered a church in the small town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen in northern France. 
They took two parishioners, a priest, and two nuns hostage.
Police were alerted by a nun who managed to escape, and officers and firefighters came to the scene. 
What followed was a one-hour stand-off that ended with the two attackers shot dead by specialist elite police who had surrounded the church. 

It emerged soon after that the men killed the priest by slitting his throat.

It remains unknown as yet exactly what happened inside the church, and at what point the priest was killed. 
A further three people were injured during the attack, one of whom has been left in a critical condition. 
The men came out of the church firing at police, injuring one police officer, according to Le Parisien newspaper
While this remains unconfirmed, it would mean the attackers had at least one gun as well as their knives. 
Who were the attackers?
There were two attackers, both of them men, and they were both killed by police.
French President Francois Hollande said that the men "claimed to be from Daesh", using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group.
The attack was claimed by Isis on Tuesday afternoon via its news agency Amaq. 
Unconfirmed reports in the French press said the two men shouted "Daesh" (an Arabic acronym for God) while entering the church, but these claims were not confirmed.
The identities of the two men are likely to become known as investigations continue, but there were reports in the French press that one of the attackers was convicted in 2015 for association with a terrorist group and for attempting to travel to Syria.
Apparently the man was freed and placed under surveillance by having to wear an electronic bracelet. These reports however are unconfirmed.
If the men were indeed radicalized Islamists, as was the man who killed 84 in Nice on Bastille Day earlier this month, then their profiles also match that of Sid Ahmed Ghlam, who is understood to have been planning an attack on a church near Paris last year.
Police were able to thwart the attack before the man reached the church, although he killed one woman on the way. 
Who are the victims?
Jacques Hamel, the 84-year-old priest of the church, was killed in the attack.
According to the diocese of Rouen, Hamel became a priest in 1958 and celebrated his “Golden Jubilee”, marking 50 years of priesthood, in 2008.
The man was a respected member of the small community. 
"My family has lived here for 35 years, we always knew him," a friend of the priest told l’Express newspaper.
"He was someone who was very appreciated in the town. He was very inconspicuous, he never liked putting himself first."
There were another three church goers injured in the attack, one of whom has been left fighting for their life, according to the Bishop of Rouen. 
It remains unclear who these three people are, other than that they were in the church at the time, either as parishioners or nuns.  
Priest killed as knifemen take hostages at French church
Was it a terrorist attack?
The attack was claimed by Isis on Tuesday afternoon via its news agency Amaq. 
Even before President Hollande condemned the incident as a "vile terrorist attack" and said the attackers "claimed to be from Isis" French authorities had drafted in specialist counter-terror judges to investigate the case.
It appears certain the killing and hostage taking was just the latest in a long line of terror attacks in France dating back to January 2015.
France has long feared churches in the country would be targeted by jihadists because of the symbolism.
Story continues below…
What have been the reactions to the attack?

President Francois Hollande, who is originally from Rouen, and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve are both in the area meeting with the families of the victims.
Hollande called it a "vile terrorist attack" and vowed to wage war against the Islamic State "by every means" within the law.
"We are confronted with a group, Daesh, which has declared war on us," Hollande said.
"We have to wage war, by every means, (but through) upholding the law, which is because we are a democracy."
France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his "horror at the barbaric attack".
"The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together," he wrote on Twitter.
French far-right politician Marion Marechal Le Pen, the niece of Marine Le Pen, tweeted: "They’re killing our children, assassinating our police officers, and slitting the throats of our priests. Wake up!"
Pope Francis voiced his "pain and horror" at the hostage-taking, according to the Vatican.
The archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, urged all non-believers to join those of the church in "calling to God".
"The Catholic Church can take up no other weapons than prayer and fraternity between men," he said in a statement.
Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available