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Terror Strikes Again: Priest, two hostage takers killed in France Church attack

Since 2015, at least 130 people were killed and over 350 were injured in a serious of attacks in France

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Map of France. Image source: VOA

PARIS: A priest and two armed men were killed and a person was injured in a hostage-taking incident in a church in Normandy region on Tuesday, President Francois Hollande said.

Rev. Jacques Hamel, 84, was killed when two men armed with knives stormed the church and took five people hostage during a morning Mass at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray area of Rouen, CNN quoted Hollande as saying.

The attack was a “cowardly assassination” carried out “by two terrorists in the name of Daesh (the IS),” Hollande said.

The attackers were later shot dead by the police. “The two killers came out and they were neutralized,” French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

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Besides the slain priest, two nuns and two churchgoers were taken hostage, BFMTV reported.

The injured hostage was “between life and death”, Brandet said.

The priest’s killing follows a string of violent attacks across the Europe in recent days, most of them claimed by the IS, most notably July 14 attack in the French city of Nice that left 84 dead and more than 300 injured.

France has been under a state of emergency since the November 13 Paris terror attacks last year. At least 130 people were killed and over 350 were injured in a serious of attacks.

French police told CNN that one of the church attackers had tried to go to fight in Syria last year, in 2015, but had been stopped in Turkey by authorities.

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He was then sent back to France and sent to prison in May 2015. Before he was released, he was placed under police surveillance and forced to wear an electronic monitoring tag.

French authorities have struggled to monitor the thousands of domestic Islamic radicals on their radar, and, in response to the heightened terror threat, President Hollande has vowed to double the number of officials charged with the task.

More than 10,000 people were on their “fiche S” list, used to flag radicalised individuals considered a threat to national security.

“Daesh has declared war on us. We have to win that war,” Hollande told the media after the hostage situation was neutralised.

He also urged the public to remain unified in the face of the threat. “All people feel affected so we must have cohesion … no one can divide us,” he said.

“Terrorists will not give up on anything until we stop them.”

The Paris anti-terror prosecutor has taken over the investigation into the attack, France’s Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The Vatican condemned the attack, particularly the killing of the priest, calling it “terrible news”. It said the Pope shared the pain and horror in response to the “absurd violence”.

A statement said the violence was particularly horrific as it took place in a church, “a sacred place where the love of God is announced”.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted his horror at the “barbaric attack” on the church and vowed a defiant response. “We will stand together,” he said.

A police cordon has been set up around the scene, about 108 km northwest of Paris. (IANS)

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President of Egypt Calls for Collective Action Against Countries Supporting Terrorism

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The president of Egypt Urges world leaders to take decisive action against states supporting terrorism. Pixabay

Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.

The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.

Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.

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The President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. VOA

The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the U.S., Britain and Canada.

The Sahel region is home to al-Qaida and Islamic State group-linked militants. El-Sissi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.

Egypt has for years been battling an Islamic State-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.

Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.

Since Morsi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.

Upcoming conference

El-Sissi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He did not elaborate.

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This photo provided by the office of Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, dignitaries including Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, gather, for a photo during a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Egypt. VOA

He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”

El-Sissi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.

After the 2011 civil war, Libya split in two, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

Maritime border agreement 

El-Sissi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.

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Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.

Hifter has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital.  He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy. (VOA)