Two men pledging allegiance to Islamic State attacked a Roman Catholic church during Mass on Tuesday, killing a priest and gravely injuring another person in the first assault on a church amid a string of recent terror attacks on Western Europe. The priest, Father Hamel, was a member of the Normandy Interfaith Committee and was well respected.
Two men pledging allegiance to Islamic State attacked a Roman Catholic church during Mass on Tuesday, killing a priest and gravely injuring another person in the first assault on a church amid a string of recent terror attacks on Western Europe.
Investigators are examining whether one of the attackers was Adel Kermiche, French authorities said, a young man who was under court order to wear an electronic bracelet for trying to travel to Syria.
Kermiche, a 19 year-old who grew up in France, was detained in Turkey in 2015 while trying to reach Islamic State’s stronghold in Northern Syria, French authorities said. He was ordered to wear the bracelet after a French court convicted him on terrorism charges in March 2016.
Investigators suspect Kermiche was one of two attackers killed by police upon exiting the church.
Henria Bayouki, 19, a friend who has attended summer camp with Kermiche, said she spoke to his family who confirmed he was one of the attackers.
Father Jacques Hamel is described a kind and generous man. He was semi-retired, and was filling in for the regular priest, Father Auguste Moanda-Phuati, at the time of the attack.
Born in 1930 in Darnetal, Seine-Maritime, Hamel was ordained in 1958 and celebrated his golden jubilee – 50 years of priesthood – in 2008, according to the parish website.
“He was a man who was always there for others,” Philippe Maheut, the vicar general who helps oversee the parish, told France 24. “He was not responsible for the parish, but he was always on hand to celebrate baptisms, marriages, funerals and to meet people. He was someone who was very active.”
Mohammed Karabila, the president of Normandy’s Regional Council of the Muslim Faith, who worked with Father Hamel on an interfaith committee, described him as “a man of peace” who “dedicated his life to his ideas and religion”.
One of the worshippers in the church at the time was also badly wounded. They have not been identified.
Vowing to fight IS “using all means possible”, French President Francois Hollande said: “To attack a church, kill a priest, is to profane the republic.”