Tim Hume et al., CNN, July 26, 2016
One of the two suspects in the church attack that left a priest dead in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, has been identified via fingerprints as 19-year-old Adel Kermiche, a French anti-terrorism prosecutor said Tuesday.
Kermiche was known to anti-terror authorities after two attempts in 2015 to travel abroad–at least once to Syria–using a relative’s identification, prosecutor Francois Molins said. Kermiche was wearing an “electronic tag” during the attack, he said.
The second attacker has not been identified.
Speaking to journalists in the northern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where two men took five people hostage during morning Mass Tuesday, Hollande said the attack was a “cowardly assassination” carried out by “by two terrorists in the name of Daesh”–another name for ISIS.
The Rev. Jacques Hamel, 86, was stabbed in the chest and had his throat slit, Molins said.
Another victim, who was not identified but who was stabbed in the hip and throat, is in stable condition but “locked in danger,” Molins said, referring to the victim’s condition. Earlier, French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet described the victim as “between life and death.”
A man was arrested Tuesday in connection with the attack, Lecuivre said. He was arrested near the church, she told CNN.
Besides the slain priest, three nuns and two churchgoers were taken hostage, Molins said.
Sister Daniele Delafosse was able to escape the attack, she said, according to CNN French affiliate BFMTV. Before she fled, she told the station that she witnessed the perpetrators, who were filming the attacks, gather around the church altar and perform some sort of religious oration in Arabic before forcing Hamel to his knees and placing a knife to his neck. The congregants pleaded with the attackers to stop, she said.
Police attempted to negotiate through a “very small lateral door” in the church, but they could not enter the building sooner because of the hostage situation, Molins said. One of the attackers shouted, “Allahu Akbar”–Arabic for “God is the greatest”–as the two attackers left the church, following two of the nuns and one of the parishioners, Molins said.
The two killers–one of whom wore a fake explosive belt, while the other carried a kitchen timer and fake bomb–were “neutralized” when they exited the church, he said.
The Vatican has condemned the attack, calling it “terrible news” on the back of a string of recent violent attacks in Europe. It said the Pope had been informed of the attack and shared the pain and horror in response to the “absurd violence.”
The statement said the violence was particularly horrific as it had taken place in a church, “a sacred place where the love of God is announced.”
Lebrun said in a statement that the “Catholic church cannot take up any other weapons but prayer and brotherhood among men.”
He called on the faithful “to lower their arms before violence and to become an apostle of a civilization of love.”