Churches urged to review security

French police at the scene of Tuesday's attack.French police at the scene of Tuesday's attack.
French police at the scene of Tuesday's attack.
CHURCHES and places of worship are being encouraged to review their security in the wake of Tuesday's terror attack in Normandy, France.

West Yorkshire Police is among those contacting religious establishments of all faiths following the attack on a priest.

The force said there had been no specific intelligence relating to attacks against the Christian Community, in the UK or in West Yorkshire, but that “recent events” may have made communities and individuals more concerned. 

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“Terrorist activity is designed to create fear and disharmony within communities,” said Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster, adding that police patrols are to pay increased attention to church premises. “Attacks such as the one we witnessed on Tuesday emphasise the need for communities to come together.

“There is no excuse for hate incidents or crimes.”

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s killing, describing the two knifemen who slit the throat of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel and seriously injured an 86-year-old parishioner as its “soldiers”.

French President Francois Hollande said his country was at “war” with IS, adding: “To attack a church, to kill a priest, is to profane the Republic.”

And Prime Minister Theresa May, speaking during a visit to Italy, has vowed that Islamist terrorists “will not prevail”.

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“They are trying to attack our values,” she said. “They are attacking our way of life. They will not prevail.”

Mrs May described Father Hamel’s murder as “yet another brutal reminder of the threat that we all face”.

“Following on from the atrocities in Nice and Germany, it reinforces the need for action both in Europe and on the wider global stage. In Europe, we must increase further our intelligence co-operation and share vital information swiftly and effectively, enabling us to better protect ourselves from these terrorists who seek to destabilise us.”

It has emerged one of the two attackers killed by police following the attack in Normandy was wearing an electronic tag at the time of attack, having twice attempted to travel to Syria.

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He had been released from prison and had committed the attack at a time when the tag was deactivated every morning.

The 19-year-old, Adel Kermiche, and his accomplice took five hostages at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray after bursting in during morning mass. One had three knives and a fake explosives belt, while the other carried a kitchen timer wrapped in aluminium foil and fake explosives in his backpack.

They used nuns as “human shields” as police tried to end the hour-long siege by entering the church. Sister Danielle, speaking to BFM television, described how Father Hamel was forced to kneel before his throat was cut.

“They forced him to his knees,” she said. “He wanted to defend himself. It’s a horror.”

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The National Police Chiefs’ Council has urged Britain’s Christian community to be alert in the wake of the attack.

The advice came after Home Secretary Amber Rudd made a prearranged announcement of new measures to combat hate crime, including a £2.4 million fund to pay for extra security at places of worship. And religious groups in Yorkshire are calling on faith communities not to let such acts stand as a division.

“The despicable act of murdering an 85-year-old Catholic Priest is absolutely abhorrent,” said Imam Qari Asim MBE of Makkah Mosque in Leeds. “An attack on any place of worship, is an attack on way of life of faith communities, and therefore an attack on all of us.”