News > International > Attack on a Church in France: Priest Killed by Hostage Takers

Attack on a Church in France: Priest Killed by Hostage Takers

France still under a state of emergency due to earlier attacks

(CNN) -- One man was killed and another hostage seriously wounded in an attack on a Catholic church in Normandy, France, on Tuesday, a French official has told journalists at the scene.

Two men took five people hostage in the church in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during morning Mass, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

Those taken hostage were a priest, two nuns and two churchgoers, CNN French affiliate BFMTV reported.

The hostage killed was a priest, the Archbishop of Rouen said in a statement. The Rev. Jacques Hamel, 84, was killed during the attack, according to a statement published on the website of the Diocese of Rouen.

The situation ended when the two attackers were shot dead by police, Brandet said.

"The two killers came out and they were neutralized," he said.

The wounded hostage was treated at the scene, but had sustained serious injuries and was "between life and death," he said.

Three other hostages were freed and explosives experts are working to check if there are any bombs left at the scene.

The Vatican condemned the attack, calling it "terrible news" on the back of a string of recent violent attacks in Europe. It said the Pope had been informed of the attack and shared the pain and horror in response to the "absurd violence."

The statement said the violence was particularly horrific as it had taken place in a church, "a sacred place where the love of God is announced."

Anti-terror prosecutor investigating

Brandet said he couldn't give any information on the weapons used or the motivations of the attackers.

But the Paris anti-terror prosecutor has taken over the investigation into the attack, France's Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The hostage-taking comes on the back of a string of violent attacks across Europe in recent days, some claimed by the Sunni terror group ISIS, most notably an attack in the French city of Nice less than two weeks ago that left 84 dead.

France has been under a state of emergency since the Paris terror attacks in November last year.

A police cordon has been set up around the scene in the town, about 108 kilometers (67 miles) northwest of Paris.

A witness, Dominique Michot, told CNN that the hostage situation was underway when he arrived at his nearby workplace shortly before 10 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET).

Michot, a baker who spoke to CNN from inside the police perimeter, said he heard several rifle bursts at about 10 a.m.

He then heard police talk on their radios about an incoming bomb squad.

French President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve are on their way to the scene, officials confirmed.

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