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French Religious Leaders Concerned About Safety After Latest Terror Attack

French President Francois Hollande met with religious leaders Wednesday in an attempt to assuage fears after a Muslim terrorist murdered a Catholic priest.

Hollande gathered leaders of various religions at his office in Paris in an attempt to create inter-faith solidarity in the face of the terrorist attacks that have struck France with increasing frequency.

Many in the French Catholic community were still in shock Wednesday, just a day after a 19-year-old jihadist – who was already awaiting trial on previous terror charges – and an unidentified accomplice burst into a church and slit the throat of an 86-year-old priest while he was conducting mass.

Adel Kermiche, has been arrested twice on terror-related charges since March 2015, and was wearing an electronic bracelet at the time he carried out the attack.

Both attackers were eventually killed when they charged at police, and police opened fire on them.

‘Where were the police?’

Mohammed Karabila, leader of the regional council of Muslim worship in the area, had just two questions following the attack: “How could a person wearing an electronic bracelet carry out an attack? Where were the police?”

Others in the Muslim community called for increased security at religious buildings, but cautioned against lumping the terrorists in with the rest of France’s Muslim community — the largest in Europe.

“We deeply desire that our places of worship are the subject of greater (security) focus, a sustained focus,” said Dalil Boubakeur, the head of France’s Muslim community.

He went on to express “deep grief” on behalf of French Muslims, and called the attack a “blasphemous sacrilege which goes against all the teachings of our religion.”

Pope condemns attack

Pope Francis condemned the attack on a Roman Catholic church. Through Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi, the pope said the attack is particularly difficult to understand “because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is announced.”

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also warned against villifying all Muslims after the attack, saying the goal of the terrorists was to “set the French people against each other, attack religion in order to start a war of religions.”

The church is located about 104 kilometers north of Paris, where in November members of IS killed 130 people during coordinated attacks on the city.

Terrorist target

Over the past 19 months, France has been the target of two other major terrorist attacks.

In January 2015, there were deadly assaults on the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and other public places around Paris, killing 17 people.

In the southern city of Nice, 84 people were killed on July 14 by a man who drove a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day while firing a handgun.

This post is from Voice of America. Click here to read the full text

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