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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
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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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Pope Urges End to Carnage in Syria, Calls for Reconciliation in Middle East

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Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) blessing at the end of the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Apr. 1, 2018. VOA

In his Easter message, Pope Francis called for peace in a world marked by war and conflict. Addressing tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square from the central balcony of the basilica, the pope called for an end to “carnage” in the long-suffering land of Syria and “reconciliation” in the Middle East.

Francis’ appeal for peace came in his Urbi et Orbi message after having celebrated Easter mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. He said the message of the resurrection offers hope in a world “marked by so many acts of injustice and violence”.

The pope begged for peace for “the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria, whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war.”

“This Easter,” the pope said, “may the light of the risen Christ illuminate the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage”.

Francis demanded that aid be delivered to the needy in the war-torn country and called for “fitting conditions for the return of the displaced.”

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Pope Francis acknowledges pilgrims while delivering the Urbi et Orbi blessing at the end of the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, April 1, 2018. VOA

The pope also urged reconciliation in Israel, a place “experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless.” His words followed the Friday deaths of 15 Palestinian protesters on the Israeli-Gaza border two days before Easter Sunday.

ALSO READ: Bangladesh gets its first Catholic Cardinal: Pope Francis names 17 Archbishops as new Cardinals

Turning his thoughts to Africa, the pope also called for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Let us not forget the victims of that conflict”, the pope said, “especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.”
The world’s first Latin American pope also urged international assistance for Venezuela, so that more people would not have to abandon their homeland because of the economic and political crisis.

Finally, Francis also expressed the hope that the “fruits of dialogue” would advance peace and harmony on the Korean peninsula, where the two sides are set to hold their first summit in more than a decade on April 27.

Easter is Christianity’s “moveable feast,” falling on a different date each year. Western Christian churches celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox.

This year, Eastern Orthodox Churches, which include Jewish Passover in their calculation of Easter dates, celebrate the holiday next Sunday, April 8. VOA