There are several details in this story that are cause for extreme concern. The failure to monitor known terrorist who went on to behead a priest, the stabbing of a nun, and then a gun battle in a church. It's a tragedy of epic proportions.
(Daily Mail) - Francois Hollande says France is at war with ISIS after two Islamist knifemen butchered a French priest and left a nun fighting for her life before they were both shot dead by police in Normandy.
The martyr Fr. Jacques Hamel
One of the men who stormed into the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen during mass was a local man, who was being monitored by electronic tag after being jailed for trying to join fanatics in Syria. They ANKLE TAGGED a terrorist.
The 84-year-old priest, named as Jacques Hamel, had his throats cut while a nun is critically injured in hospital following the raid which saw five people held hostage by ISIS assailants shouting Allahu Akbar.
This afternoon it emerged that the murdered clergyman was deputising while the parish priest was on holiday. French authorities say they have arrested a third man in connection with the attack.
The two killers were 'neutralised' by marksmen as they emerged from the building, which is now being searched for explosives. French president Hollande said France is 'at war' with ISIS while the terror group has claimed responsibility for the killing.
It comes as it emerged that the building was one of a number of Catholic churches on a terrorist 'hit list' found on a suspected ISIS extremist last April.
There are also reports that one of the attackers was a local resident who was under electronic tag surveillance having been jailed in France for trying to travel to Syria in 2015. His bail terms allowed him to be unsupervised between 8.30am and 12.30pm - the attack happened between 9am and 11am. Because 9/11 didn't start at 9:03... well actually.
ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement published by its Aamaq news agency. It said the killing was carried out by 'two soldiers of the Islamic State.' It added the killing was in response to its calls to target countries of the US-led coalition which is fighting ISIS.
The Paris prosecutor's office said this afternoon that one person has been detained in the investigation but gave no details on the identity or location. The spokeswoman spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
French President Francois Hollande, visiting the scene of the attack, appealed for 'unity' in France, where political blame-trading has poisoned the aftermath of the Nice truck attack, the third major strike in the country in 18 months.
'The threat remains very high,' said Hollande. 'We are confronted with a group, Daesh, which has declared war on us. We have to wage war by every means, (but through) upholding the law, which is because we are a democracy.'
Pope Francis has expressed his 'pain and horror' at the incident with a spokesman saying the Pontiff was appalled by the 'barbaric killing' because it happened in a sacred place.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: 'Evil attacks the weakest, denies truth and love, is defeated through Jesus Christ. Pray for France, for victims, for their communities.'
The two men held the priest and congregation of four - which included two nuns - hostage for almost an hour before being shot as they emerged on to the courtyard of the church.
A nun later gave a chilling eye-witness account of her escape.
She was at the church when the terrorists stormed in, but managed to escape before the clergyman was murdered.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous when talking to Le Figaro, said: 'They came suddenly. They took space. They spoke Arabic. I saw a knife.
'I left when they began to attack Father Jacques. I do not even know if they realised that I was leaving.'
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Paris had earlier said that the men had crept into the church via a back entrance during a morning service, soon after 9am. The two men seized the priest, two sisters from a local order, and two parishioners.
'A third nun escaped and raised the alarm, and anti-terrorists officers were on the scene within minutes,' said a source who lives locally. 'It appears that the priest who was celebrating the service was attacked first, and had his throat cut.
'The area around the church was sealed off, and then armed officers appeared with their weapons. I heard at least a dozen shots.'
The siege officially ended at around 11am, following the shooting of the two attackers.
This morning, security sources said one of the murderers was a convicted terrorist who was meant to be living with his parents with an electronic tag on his ankle.
The revelation - made to the French TV news channel I-Tele - will cause further outrage in a country devastated by constant security failings.
Two identities of the attackers are already known to the authorities. One, who lived close to the church, is said to have left for Syria in 2015 to try and join ISIS, but he was arrested in Turkey.
He was jailed for terrorist offences following a short trial in France, before being released on March 2 this year. Bail conditions included returning to live with his parents, wearing an electronic tag, and reporting to his local police station. Neither of the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray attackers have yet been named.
French security services have been regularly criticised for the way they allow known terrorists their freedom after being found guilty of crimes.
Units attending the scene this morning included the elite RAID, the anti-terrorist unit that was heavily involved in the Paris attacks last year, in which almost 150 people were murdered.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said police were searching the church and its perimeter for possible explosives and terrorism investigators had been summoned.
Anti-terrorist judges immediately opened an investigation in to today's attack, as President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve attended the scene.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted that he was 'horrified at the barbaric attack' adding: 'All France and all Catholics are bruised.'
And at a press conference in Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May offered 'my condolences to the French people following the sickening attack in Northern France this morning', adding: 'Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.'
'We all face a terror threat. If you look at the national threat level here in the United Kingdom, it is at severe. That means that a terrorist attack is highly likely.
'What is necessary is for us all to work together, and stand shoulder to shoulder with France. We offer them every support we have in dealing with this issue and this threat that they, and the rest of us, are facing.
'But on one thing, I think, we are all absolutely clear, and that is the terrorists will not prevail.
'They are trying to destroy our way of life. They are trying to destroy our values. We have shared values and those values will win through and the terrorists will not win.'
A number of shots were heard over a period of around 15 seconds as the incident came to an end.
Eulalie Garcia, who works in a beauty parlour, is on the same road as the church, and told reporters that she knew the priest, who had taught her the catechism as a young girl.
'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.'
She said she was very shocked by the death of the priest, who lived opposite his church. 'It can happen to anyone,' she said.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen later confirmed that Father Jacques Hamel had been killed.
In a statement from Krakow, Poland, where Pope Francis was visiting, Lebrun says 'I cry out to God, with all men of good will. And I invite all non-believers to unite with this cry ... The Catholic Church has no other arms besides prayer and fraternity between men.'
An Italian politician later urged Pope Francis to put the slain French priest on a fast track for sainthood.
Roberto Maroni, the president of the Lombard region, said in an appeal circulated on social media that 'Father Jacques is a martyr of faith' and requested that the pope 'immediately proclaim him St. Jacques.'
Shortly after the appeal, the hashtage (hash)santosubito, which translates as 'saint immediately,' began circulating on Twitter.
The canonisation process is a lengthy one involving two miracles attributed to the person's intercession, but in the case of a martyr only one miracle is needed, after beatification. There must first be a declaration by the Vatican that the person indeed died for the faith.
The area around the church remained cordoned off and the old town was out of bounds this afternoon. Saint-Etienne du Rouvray has a population of 30,000 and is around seven miles from Rouen.
A local Muslim leader said one of the men who attacked the church was on French police radar and had travelled to Turkey.
Mohammed Karabila, president of the Regional Council of the Muslim Faith for Haute-Normandie and head of the local Muslim cultural centre, said '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.
Mr Karabila said he was 'appalled by the death of his friend' and hoped that interfaith dialogue in his region would not be damaged.
The incident comes as France is on high alert after a Bastille Day attack that killed 84 people in Nice and a series of deadly attacks last year claimed by ISIS.
This morning it emerged Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray was one of a number of Catholic churches on a terrorist 'hit list' found on a suspected ISIS terrorist.
Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, was arrested in April 2015 after he called an ambulance in Paris after shooting himself in the leg.
Investigators believe he was a terrorist planning 'imminent attacks' in France on the instructions of ISIS leaders.
Investigators found an arsenal of weapons in Ghlam's car, which was parked nearby, and at his student accommodation. It included Kalashnikovs, a police-issue pistol, and a number of bullet-proof vests.
Documents found at his flat and in a search of his computer and telephone, suggested Ghlam was in contact with a French speaker in Syria whohad ordered him to carry out attacks on churches.
These included the Sacre-Couer basilica in Paris, and places of worship including the one in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray targeted today.
Ghlam is currently in a high-security prison while waiting trialfor 'murder, attempted murder, association with criminals with a view to commitcrimes against people' and for other infractions 'connected to a terroristorganisation'.
The computer student, who born in Algeria, was also charged with the murder of a 32-year-old woman, who was found in the passenger seat of her burning car after his arrest.
Dance instructor Aurelie Chatelain, a mother of one, who had just attended a Pilates class, died after she was shot three times in the head, in what police believe may have been an attempt by Ghlam to hijack her car.
As part of beefed up security operations in France, some 700 schools and Jewish synagogues and 1,000 mosques are under military protection.
However with some 45,000 Catholic churches, and thousands more Protestant and evangelical churches, protecting all places of worship is a massive headache for security services.
The Nice massacre triggered a bitter political spat over alleged security failings, with the government accused of not doing enough to protect the population.
French far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen wrote on Twitter that the 'modus operandi obviously makes us fear a new attack from terrorist Islamists.'