Islamic State has claimed two of its «soldiers» carried out Tuesday’s attack on a Catholic Church in Normandy, France, where they killed a priest after taking him hostage at knife-point.
The United States condemned «in the strongest possible terms» the «horrific» attack and offered condolences to the family and friends of the murdered priest, Father Jacques Hamel, and parishioners of the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said «France and the United States share a commitment to protecting religious liberty for those of all faiths, and today’s violence will not shake that commitment.»
French President Francois Hollande visited the scene of the attack in the northern town Tuesday and said the attackers had claimed allegiance IS before being shot dead by police.
«Daesh has declared war on us. We must fight this war by all means, while respecting the rule of law,» Hollande said, using an Arabic name for IS.
French security officials said the two attackers slit the 84 year old priest’s throat before police were able to intervene. Hollande denounced the killing as a «vile terrorist attack.»
Police said another person who was taken hostage at the church is «between life and death» following the attack. Police said the identities of the attackers are not yet known.
Pope condemns attack
Pope Francis condemned the attack on a Roman Catholic church. Through Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi, the pope said the attack is particularly difficult to understand «because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is announced.»
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed condolences for the victims of what he called «a barbaric attack on a church.» He added, «The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together.»
The church is located about 104 kilometers north of Paris, where in November members of IS killed 130 people during coordinated attacks on the city.
Country targeted by militants
Over the past 19 months, France has been the target of two other major terrorist attacks.
In January 2015, there were deadly assaults on the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hedbo and other public places around Paris, killing 17 people.
In the southern city of Nice, 84 people were killed on July 14 by a man who drove a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day while firing a handgun.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP