One of the church attackers was known to police
France’s main religious leaders sent a message of unity and solidarity after meeting yesterday with French President Francois Hollande a day after two extremists attacked a Catholic church and slit the throat of an elderly priest in front of other hostages.
Yet even as they spoke, more horrifying details of the church attack became known.
An 86-year-old woman identified only as Jeanine, one of five held hostage on Tuesday at the Normandy church, said the attackers handed her husband, Guy, a phone and demanded that he take photos or video of the priest after he was killed. Her husband was in turn slashed in four places by the attackers and is in hospital with serious injuries.
The attackers took hostages at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in France’s northwest region of Normandy.
After the priest, Rev Jacques Hamel, 85, was killed, both attackers, at least one of them a local man, were killed by police outside the church.
Hollande, meanwhile, presided over a defence council and cabinet meeting yesterday in Paris after speaking with Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish leaders. The archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, called on Catholics not to “enter the game” of ISIS that “wants to set children of the same family upon each other”.
The rector of the main Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, said France’s Muslims must push for better training of Muslim clerics and urged that reforming French Muslim institutions be put on the agenda. He did not elaborate.
As authorities looked for ways to prevent extremist attacks, gruesome details of the church attack trickled out.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the two attackers had knives and fake explosives - one a phony suicide belt.
He identified one of the attackers as Adel Kermiche, a 19-year-old who grew up in the town and tried to travel to Syria twice last year using family members’ documents. He was detained outside France, sent home, handed preliminary terrorism charges and wore a tracking bracelet that was turned off four hours a day.
The identity of the second attacker has not been made public.
HORRIFYING: The church attack in Normandy