Two armed men stormed into a church and killed a priest after taking him hostage in northern France, BBC reported quoting French media.
The two men who were carrying knives entered the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray where a mass was taking place. They took Fr Jacques Hamel along with two nuns and several others as hostages. According to local media, there were exchange of fire between the criminals and the police. Both hostage takers are reported to have been killed.
According to French police reports, one of the hostages managed to escape and raised the alarm. The police have cordoned the area and investigations are underway.
President Francois Hollande told reporters that the men had claimed allegiance to Islamic State (IS).
According to the report, he said the attackers had committed a “cowardly assassination” and that France would fight IS “by all means”.
Pope Francis also condemned the “pain and horror of this absurd violence”.
French interior ministry spokesman, Pierre-Henri Brandet, said one of the hostages had been critically injured.
A woman who works in a local beauty parlour, Eulalie Garcia, said she had known the 92-year-old priest since her childhood.
“My family has lived here for 35 years and we have always known him,” she said.
“He was someone who was treasured by the community. He was very discreet and didn’t like to draw attention to himself.”
France has been on high alert after a deranged man rammed a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day function in Nice, that left 84 people dead last week. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the massacre.
Countries in Europe have been witnessing a spurt in violent incidents over the past months. Some have blamed the influx of immigrants from war-torn Syria and Iraq for such activities.
On Monday, a Syrian man blew himself up at a music festival in Germany, apparently after being refused asylum in the country. Again on Sunday, a teenage gunman killed 9 people in a shooting spree in Munich. The incidents have lead German authorities to call for tighter gun laws in the country. In the case teenage gunman’s case, Bavarian police confirmed that the shooter had bought the gun through the “dark net” market.