The U.S. condemns the attack on a French church in which an elderly priest was killed, a White House spokesman says. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: The United States condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the attack on a French church in which an elderly priest was killed, a White House spokesman said on Tuesday (July 26). Assailants loyal to Islamic State forced an elderly priest to his knees before slitting his throat and took several worshippers hostage in a French church on Tuesday before police shot the attackers dead. Calling it a "horrific terrorist attack", White House spokesman Eric Schultz expressed condolences for the victims and said the U.S. was ready to help France. "France and the United States share a commitment to protecting religious liberty for those of all faiths, and today's violence will not shake that commitment. We commend French law enforcement for their quick and decisive response and stand ready to assist the French authorities in their investigation going forward," Schultz said. It was the latest in a wave of attacks in Europe inspired by the Islamist militant group based in Iraq and Syria that is on the defensive against a U.S.-led military coalition in which France is a major partner. The knifemen entered the church during morning mass near the northern city of Rouen, northwest of Paris, killing Father Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old parish priest, and taking four other people hostage, one of whom was seriously wounded. Police shot the attackers dead as they emerged from the church in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. The attack was the latest in a string of deadly assaults including the mass killing in Nice, southern France, on Bastille Day 12 days ago and four incidents in Germany, most recently a suicide bombing at a concert in Ansbach on Sunday. Islamic State has called on its supporters to take action with any available weapons targeting countries it has been fighting.