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CRIME

France church attackers ‘smiled’ and spoke of Koran

One of the jihadists who murdered an elderly French priest smiled as he carried out the attack, and nuns who witnessed the grisly murder said the killers spoke about the Koran.

France church attackers 'smiled' and spoke of Koran
Three nuns were in the church when Father Jacques Hamel was killed. Photo: AFP

The two nuns who were in the church when Father Jacques Hamel was killed, his throat slit on the altar, said the men appeared aggressive and nervous during the attack at the Eglise Saint-Etienne in Normandy on July 26th.

Then, one of the attackers seemed pleased.

“I got a smile from the second (man). Not a smile of triumph, but a soft smile, that of someone who is happy,” nun Sister Huguette Peron told Catholic newspaper La Vie on Friday.

Abdel Malik Petitjean and Adel Kermiche, both 19, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and both were killed by police in the shock attack.

The men stormed the 17th-century stone church during mass in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, taking several hostages before killing the priest and seriously wounding another captive.

One nun fled the scene and alerted the police, leaving Sister Huguette and Sister Helene Decaux, both in their 80s, in the church with the jihadists.

At one point, Sister Helene got tired and asked to sit down. 

“I asked for my cane, he gave it to me,” she said. 

Then the men started talking about religion, asking the nun if she was familiar with the Koran.

“Yes, I respect it like I respect the Bible, I've read several suras. And those that hit me in particular are the suras about peace,” Sister Helene responded.

One of the attackers replied: “Peace, it's what we want… as long as there are bombs on Syria, we will continue our attacks. And they will happen every day. When you stop, we will stop.”

Neighbours and acquaintances said Kermiche was “obsessed” with going to Syria, where an international coalition including France is carrying out air strikes against the IS jihadist group.

“Are you afraid to die?” one of the attackers asked.

The nun said no, then he said: “Why?”

“I believe in God, and I know I will be happy” Sister Helene said, as she quietly prayed to herself.

Then they started talking about God.

“Jesus cannot be God and a man. It is you who are wrong,” one of the men said.

“Maybe, but too bad,” Sister Huguette replied.

At that moment, she prepared for her own death, not knowing what was coming next.

“Thinking I was going to die, I offered my life to God” she added.

CRIME

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

A French court on Tuesday ordered the partial release of a Corsican nationalist who has served 24 years in jail for the 1998 murder of a top French official.

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

Under the ruling, Pierre Alessandri will be allowed out of jail to work for a landscaping company in the daytime and will be granted a full conditional release in a year if he behaves well.

The relaxation of Alessandri’s conditions of detention came amid tensions between the Mediterranean island’s pro-autonomy leaders and the French state, after a fellow Corsican detained in the same case was killed in a French prison in March.

Alessandri and a third Corsican detainee were transferred from mainland France to a jail in Corsica in April after the murder of Yvan Colonna.

The Paris appeals court granted Alessandri “a probationary partial release” of 12 months from February 13, the prosecutor-general Remy Heitz said.

If he behaves well, he would then be granted “conditional release” for another ten years, he said.

Alessandri’s lawyer Eric Barbolosi hailed the ruling as a “great relief”.

“For the first time in a court of appeals, the magistrates made a decision based on the criteria necessary for a conditional release, not the particular nature of the case,” he said.

Alessandri had served enough time to be eligible for such a release by 2017, and had already petitioned to be freed three times.

But national anti-terror prosecutors objected, and an appeals court barred his release.

The country’s highest court then quashed one of these decisions, ordering the Paris appeals court to re-examine it.

Colonna, a former goat herder, was announced dead on March 21 after an Islamist extremist who accused him of blasphemy strangled and suffocated him in a prison in the southern town of Arles in mainland France.

He was detained in 2003 after four years on the run, and sentenced in 2007, and then again in 2011, to life in jail over the killing in 1998 of the French government prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac.

The killing was the most shocking of a series of attacks by pro-independence militant group FLNC.

Alessandri and another nationalist, Alain Ferrandi, had already been sentenced to life in jail in 2003 over the murder.

Ferrandi, who was transferred to the same Corsican jail, has also requested to be released on parole, and a decision is due on February 23rd.

Colonna’s murder sparked violent protests in Corsica.

It galvanised the nationalist movement and led President Emmanuel Macron’s government to offer talks about giving greater political autonomy to the territory.

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