'At least one hostage killed' and knifemen 'shot dead' in siege at French church


Two knifemen have been killed after taking hostages in a church in France, with local reports adding that one of the hostages died during the incident.

A priest, two nuns and several worshippers were involved in the incident in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, south of Rouen, in Normandy.

According to unconfirmed reports, the hostage takers were shot dead by police.

Local reports also quoted police sources as saying that "at least" one of the hostages had been killed, thought to be the priest. Later reports suggested that the priest died from a slashed throat during the incident, while one of the members of the congregation was seriously injured.

The French Police Nationale sent a Tweet urging media not to cross security tape at the scene or take pictures or video.

The area around the church remained cordoned off and the old town was out of bounds.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, left, French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls attend a ceremony for the two police officials killed by an extremist claiming allegiance to IS, during a ceremony Friday, June 17, 2016 in Versailles, near Paris.
(Dominique Faget/AP)

President Francois Hollande and French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve were reported to be travelling to the scene.

The hostage-takers entered the church armed with knives shortly before 10am local time (9am UK time), said French media sources. The police operation was completed by 11am French time (10am UK time).

Members of the RAID, (Research, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence), France's elite police force gather during an award ceremony at their headquarters in Bievres, south of Paris,, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016.
(Christophe Ena/AP)

Officers from the elite anti-terrorist Raid squad were called in to assist local police.

A number of shots were heard over a period of around 15 seconds as the incident came to an end.

Newspaper Le Figaro quoted police sources as saying that at least one of the two hostage-takers had a beard and was wearing a "chachia" skullcap of the kind worn by some Muslims.