03:26 GMT28 November 2020
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    French President Francois Hollande rushed to the scene of the latest terror alert after two assailants were killed by police after taking hostages - including a priest and nuns - at a church in northern France.

    A police source said that one of the hostages — an 84-year-old priest —had been killed with a blade in the attack which took place in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, south of Rouen. Police say both hostage-takers were killed.

    ​Meanwhile, Hollande is facing growing pressure over alleged security failures that led to 84 people being killed in Nice, July 14, when Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a 19-ton truck into a crown gathered on the city's Promenade des Anglais.

    The French president is under pressure to explain a series of security failures in Nice, with a local policewoman alleging that the interior ministry had harassed her into reporting that the national police had been deployed alongside local police in Nice on the night of the lorry attack.

    Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, however, denied the allegation while Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the scandal as a "political polemic aimed at destabilizing the government." Valls was booed at a memorial service for the victims of the Nice attack.

    Intel Failures

    There had been criticism that the national police were not actually deployed and that only a small force of local police were protecting the entrance to the pedestrianized zone, allowing the driver to plow straight into the crowd.

    The driver of the 19-ton truck plowed into crowds along the promenade in Nice, despite heavy vehicles being banned on public holidays in France and those over 3.5 tons being barred from the promenade all year round.

    A man kneels and holds his head on July 15, 2016 in front of flowers placed near the site in Nice where a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people.
    © AFP 2020 / BORIS HORVAT
    A man kneels and holds his head on July 15, 2016 in front of flowers placed near the site in Nice where a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people.

    Cazeneuve initially said "national police were present and very present on the Promenade des Anglais" and that their cars were blocking the entrance to the promenade. However, he later admitted only local police, who are more lightly armed than national police, were guarding the entrance to the area.

    According to the Liberation newspaper, only one local police car was stationed at the entrance to the promenade. Cazeneuve has ordered an inquiry into the security at the event and the reasons why the attacker was able to drive to the area several times before being able to mow down scores of people.

    The latest attack will pile pressure on Hollande, Valls and Cazeneuve to increase security on the streets of France and promote greater cooperation between its municipal and national police, as well as the security services.

    Outside of the police, France has seven different intelligence agencies:  the DGSE [General Directorate for External Security] and the DGSI [General Directorate for Internal Security], as well as another five agencies that work in various technical and specialist fields. The separate organizations work in silos, meaning that intelligence on potential attackers is often not passed on.

    Related:

    Two Armed Men Take Hostages in Church in France's Normandy
    Lives of 15 Injured in Nice Truck Attack Still in Danger - Hollande
    Nice Politician Accuses French Interior Ministry of Bastille Day Cover-Up
    Why French Government Ordered Destruction of Nice Massacre Video Footage
    No French Official Punished Following Paris, Nice Terror Attacks – Lawmaker
    Tags:
    State of Emergency, hostage crisis, priest, terror attack, church, knife attack, terrorism, security, hostage, Normandy knife attack, Nice Truck Attack, Catholic Church, Bernard Cazeneuve, Manuel Valls, Francois Hollande, Europe, Normandy, Nice, France
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