SAINT-ETIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY: Two unknown assailants broke into a church in northern France on Tuesday and slit the throat of an 84-year-old priest in a hostage-taking drama that has shocked the country.
The attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray came as France was still reeling from a massacre in the French Riviera city of Nice claimed by the Islamic State group.
The motivations for the hostage-taking were not yet clear, but the Paris prosecutor’s office said the case was being handled by anti-terrorism prosecutors.
Five people were inside the church in the when it came under attack, interior ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said.
He said the church was surrounded by France’s anti-gang brigade the BRI, which specialises in kidnappings, and that “the two assailants came out and were killed by police”.
The priest died after having his throat slit, sources close to the investigation told AFP. The archbishop of the nearby city of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, named him as 84-year-old Jacques Hamel.