PARIS (AP) – The Latest on the hostage-taking in the French region of Normandy. (all times local):
French President Francois Hollande is suggesting that the Islamic State group is behind an attack on a church that left an 84-year-old priest dead.
Hollande called it a “vile terrorist attack” and said it’s another more sign that France is at war with IS, which has claimed a string of attacks on France.
“We must lead this war with all our means,” he said in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where two attackers took hostages on Tuesday before being killed by police.
Hollande expressed support for all France’s Catholics but said the attack targets “all the French.”
The identities of Tuesday’s attackers are unclear.
Pope Francis has condemned in the strongest terms the attack on a Roman Catholic church in northern France that left a priest dead and a worshipper critically wounded.
Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in a statement Tuesday that the attack hits particularly hard “because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is announced, and the barbaric murder of a priest and the involvement of the faithful.”
Lombardi called the attack “more terrible news, that adds to a series of violence in these days that have left us upset, creating immense pain and worry.”
The pope, he said, has expressed “pain and horror for this absurd violence, with the strongest condemnation for every form of hatred and prayer for those affected.”
The Vatican expressed its closeness to the Roman Catholic Church in France and the Archdiocese of Rouen, as well as to the affected communities and the people of France.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen has confirmed the identity of the priest who was slain by two attackers at a church in northwest France.
He says 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel was killed Tuesday. Police say two attackers entered his church in the small Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, slit his throat and took hostages before being shot dead by police.
In a statement from Krakow, Poland, where Pope Francis was visiting, Lebrun says “I cry out to God, with all men of good will. And I invite all non-believers to unite with this cry … The Catholic Church has no other arms besides prayer and fraternity between men.”
Two attackers seized hostages Tuesday in a church near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing a priest by slitting his throat before being shot and killed by police, French officials said.
Another person inside the church was seriously injured and is hovering between life and death, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.
Police managed to rescue three people from the church in the small northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Brandet said. The hostage-taking occurred during morning Mass, he told reporters.
The identities of the attackers and motive for the attack are unclear, according to a security official, who was not authorized to be publicly named.
French President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve were heading to the town.
Brandet, speaking on BFM TV, said the RAID special intervention force was searching the church and its perimeter for possible explosives and terrorism investigators had been summoned.
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