1 detained in Normandy church attack, French prosecutors say
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1 detained in Normandy church attack, French prosecutors say

One of the terrorists who killed priest was reportedly recently released from prison, where he was held for trying to travel to Syria

In this grab made from video, police officers close off a road during a hostage situation in Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (BFM via AP)
In this grab made from video, police officers close off a road during a hostage situation in Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (BFM via AP)

The Paris prosecutor’s office said Tuesday that one person had been detained in the investigation into an attack on a church that left a priest dead and was claimed by the Islamic State group.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office gave no details on the identity or location of the person detained. She spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The Paris prosecutor’s office oversees investigations involving terrorism.

Two attackers had taken hostages in a church in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during morning Mass, slitting the priest’s throat before being killed by police. Authorities are trying to determine whether they had accomplices.

A local Muslim leader said one of the men who attacked the church was on French police radar and had traveled to Turkey.

Mohammed Karabila, president of the Regional Council of the Muslim Faith for Haute-Normandie and head of the local Muslim cultural center, told The Associated Press that “the person that did this odious act is known, and he has been followed by the police for at least a year and a half.”

He said the attacker “went to Turkey and security services were alerted after this.” He had no information about the second attacker.

French reports said one of the attackers may have been wearing an ankle bracelet after spending a year in a French prison for attempting to travel to Syria. According to the reports, the attacker was arrested by Turkish authorities and deported back to France, where he was senteced.

The assailants entered the local church, killing the priest and leaving another hostage with life-threatening injuries, before being killed by police as they left the building, police said. Five people were inside the church when it came under attack, interior ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said. Three of the hostages were freed unharmed.

The archbishop of the nearby city of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, named the murdered priest as 84-year-old Jacques Hamel.

84-year-old French priest Jacques Hamel was killed in an apparent Islamic State attack on his church in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in Normandy on July 26, 2016 (Photo from Twitter)
84-year-old French priest Jacques Hamel, killed in an apparent Islamic State attack on his church in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in Normandy on July 26, 2016 (Photo from Twitter)

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack several hours later in a statement published by the IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency.

It said the attack near the Normandy city of Rouen was carried out by “two soldiers of the Islamic State.” It added the attack was in response to its calls to target countries of the US-led coalition fighting IS.

France remains on high alert after Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 84 people and injuring over 300.

The July 14 massacre was the third major terror attack in France in little more than 18 months.

The string of bloody incidents has left the country jittery and stoked political finger-pointing, with conservative politicians accusing the ruling Socialists of being weak or incompetent on security.

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