Horndiplomat-Two men who took several people hostage in the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray church shot by police, officials say.
At least one hostage has been killed by two knife-wielding men in a church in France’s northern Normandy region, the interior ministry said.
The Paris-based AFP news agency, citing the ministry, said a second hostage was “fighting for life” after the incident in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray on Tuesday.
Police told the Reuters news agency that a priest at the church was “killed with a blade,” adding that it looked like his throat had been slit.
The two assailants, who had taken five people hostage in the church were killed when police stormed the building, police officials said.
The motivations for the hostage-taking were not yet clear, but the Paris prosecutor’s office said the case had been handed to “anti-terrorism” judges for investigation.
French President Francois Hollande was on his way to Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, his office said.
The Vatican in a statement called the death of the priest a “barbarous killing”, saying the attack was even more heinous because it happened in a sacred place.
String of attacks
The incident comes as France is under high alert after an attack in Nice that killed 84 people and a string of deadly attacks last year claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
France is under a state of emergency and has extra police presence in the wake of the July 14 Nice attack.
The security measures have been extended four times since assailants, who pledged allegiance to ISIL, struck Paris in November, killing 130 people at restaurants, a concert hall and the national stadium.
The Nice massacre has triggered by a bitter political spat over alleged security failings, with the government accused of not doing enough to protect the population.
Prime Minster Manuel Valls had warned earlier in the week that the country will face more attacks as its struggles to handle fighters returning from the Middle East.
France has been concerned about the threat against churches ever since a foiled plot against in the Paris suburb of Villejuif in April last year.
Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a 24-year-old Algerian IT student, was arrested in Paris on suspicion of killing a woman who was found shot dead in the passenger seat of her car, and of planning an attack on a church.
Prosecutors say they found documents about al-Qaeda and ISIL at his home, and that he had been in touch with a suspected fighters in Syria about an attack on a church.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies