French church attack: Faith leaders call for more security

French religious leaders have called for more security at places of worship following the murder of an elderly priest in Normandy on Tuesday.

Representatives of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist faiths spoke after meeting President Hollande.

Father Jacques Hamel was killed while conducting morning mass in his church.

One of the two men who attacked him was wearing an electronic surveillance tag, which was temporarily turned off under his probation conditions.

The killing came 12 days after the attack in Nice in which 84 people died.

Muslim leader Dalil Boubakeur, rector of Paris’s Grand Mosque, said the leaders “deeply desire that our places of worship are the subject of greater [security] focus, a sustained focus”, as even “the most humble place of worship” can be subject to an attack.

Tuesday’s attack took place in an ordinary Catholic church in a suburb of Rouen.

Mr Boubakeur expressed “profound sorrow” on behalf of French Muslims at the attack, which he described as a “blasphemous sacrilege”.

The Archbishop of Paris, Andre Vingt-Trois, praised the harmonious relations between France’s religions.

“We must not let ourselves get pulled in to Daesh’s political games,” he said, referring to the self-styled Islamic State group (IS), saying it wanted “to set children of the same family against each other”.

President Francois Hollande has also held a meeting of his security and defence council on Wednesday morning, and is now chairing a cabinet meeting.

A photo of Priest Jacques Hamel taken from the website of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parishImage copyrightAFP
Image captionFather Jacques Hamel was killed in his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray

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On Tuesday Mr Hollande appealed for “unity” as he warned that the war against terrorism “will be long”.

“Our democracy is the target, and it will be our shield. Let us stand together. We will win this war,” he said.

Only one of the two attackers has been named. Adel Kermiche, 19, had twice tried to reach Syria to fight with IS.

Photo of young man believed to be Adel Kermiche, posted on Facebook profileImage copyrightFACEBOOK
Image captionThis image was posted on a Facebook profile which is believed to be Adel Kermiche’s

According to Le Monde (in French), the prosecutor’s office had asked for him to remain in detention but this was overruled by a judge. She ordered that he be released to house arrest with an electronic tag ensuring that he remained at home, except on weekday mornings.

This meant that on Tuesday morning he was free to leave the family home and head to the church.

He and his fellow attacker slit Father Hamel’s throat before being killed by police.

One of four people taken hostage suffered severe knife wounds, prosecutor Francois Molins said.

France is still reeling from the Bastille Day attack in Nice earlier this month, when a lorry was driven into celebrating crowds by Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, killing more than 80 people.

That was followed by four violent incidents in a week in neighbouring Germany, two of which are linked to IS.

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