Priest murdered in French church attack: what we know so far

An elderly priest had his throat slit in a church in northern France on Tuesday after two men stormed the building and took hostages. The attack in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray came as France was still coming to terms with the Bastille Day killings in Nice claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group. Here is what we know so far about the church attack: - What happened? - Two men arrived at the 17th century Eglise Saint-Etienne during morning mass, attacking the church and taking five hostages inside. During the siege they killed a priest in his 80s by slitting his throat and seriously injured another captive. The victim was father Jacques Hamel, a semi-retired assistant parish priest, according to the archbishop of nearby Rouen, Dominique Lebrun. Hamel was born in 1930 in Darnetal, a town near Saint-Etienne du Rouvray, and was ordained in 1958, according to information on the diocesan website. This is the first jihadist attack on a church on French soil since IS came to prominence two years ago. Some 65 percent of France's population identify as Catholics, according to the Ifop polling centre. The country's second-largest religion, Islam, has five million followers. - Taken down by police - As the two attackers made to leave the church they were confronted by a French police unit specialising in hostage situations, the BRI, and were shot dead. Three of the hostages were freed unharmed. The scene was then secured by officers from France's elite RAID unit, who scoured the area for explosive devices. None were found. - Who were the attackers? - The Islamic State group said the two assailants were its "soldiers" and the attack retribution for France's fight against the jihadists in the Middle East. "The perpetrators of the Normandy church attack are soldiers of the Islamic State who carried out the attack in response to calls to target countries of the Crusader coalition," the IS-linked Amaq news agency said. One of the two attackers, 19-year-old Adel Kermiche, had been charged with terror links. He was released and fitted with an electronic bracelet that allowed him to leave his house on weekdays between 8:00 am and 12:30 pm, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said. Kermiche, who was known to France's anti-terrorism police, tried twice to go to Syria in 2015. He had already threatened to attack a church, according to witness testimony collected in his neighbourhood. "We knew he wanted to go to Syria," a 60-year-old neighbour of the assailant's family, who added that he "never saw him go to the mosque". Little is known at this stage about the other attacker. - Deadly summer surge - French President Francois Hollande vowed Tuesday to wage war against IS "by every means" within the law, while also urging unity. "We are confronted with a group, Daesh, which has declared war on us," Hollande said, using an alternative name for the group. "This war will be long. Our democracy is the target, and it will be our shield. Let us stand together. We will win this war," he said. France remains on high alert after Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 84 people and injuring over 300. The July 14 killings was the third major terror attack in France in little more than 18 months.