France finds itself to be trapped within a nightmare that does not seem to end, as Normandy joins the list of locations in the country that has felt the bloody sting of terror attacks by radical Islamic extremists. Two men entered a Catholic church on July 26 Tuesday morning and murdered a priest in the middle of his celebrating Mass.
This incident occurred just shy of two weeks after a Tunisian drove a heavy truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day at Nice on the Riviera, resulting in 84 dead and hundreds of wounded.
The Guardian reports that the attack was carried out at almost 10 in the morning local time, at the church of Saint-Étienne- du-Rouvray. Eyewitness accounts state that the two men entered the church at morning mass and took hostage two nuns, two parishioners, and the celebrant priest, 85-year old Jacques Hamel. One of the nuns, Sister Danielle, described how the hostage takers, amidst panicked calls to stop, forced Hamel to his knees in front of the altar and, after delivering in Arabic what appeared to be an Islamic sermon, killed Hamel by cutting his throat. Taking advantage of the men’s distraction, Sister Danielle was able to flee outside the church to alert police.
Other witnesses saw the hostage takers filming the macabre spectacle. They then cut the throat of one of the hostage churchgoers before making their exit to loud cries of “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great). French authorities were quick to arrive at the scene – the country has remained in high alert since the attack in Nice – and the two were shot dead according to The Telegraph. The Paris prosecutor’s office also stated that a third person outside was detained for questioning. The second victim is reported to now be in stable condition.
Later that evening, Paris prosecutor François Molins announced the identity of one of the attackers: 19-year old Adel Kermiche, who was a person of interest to French anti-terror investigators. Kermiche had tried several times to travel to Syria since 2015 by using the passports of relatives. Released only this March after a period official inquiry, Kermiche had been fitted with an electronic locator tag enabling authorities to monitor his movements. That same tag was found still worn on his body. His companion has yet to be identified.
French President François Hollande condemned the church attack and described the perpetrators as being backed by ISIS. The terrorist organization has marked churches as important targets for terror attacks, in a calculated move to force French citizens to lash out at their Muslim neighbors and thus spur them to align with ISIS and eliminate the “gray zone” in what they see as a war against all other religions. This campaign by ISIS against Christians and other faiths especially in territories under its direct control has been described by US Secretary of State John Kerry as an act of genocide.
Photo Credit to www.bbc.com