Normandy: Priest Beheading

Key Details:


  • Two attackers killed a priest with a blade and seriously wounded at least one other hostage in a church in the northern French region of Normandy on Tuesday before they were shot dead by French police, officials said.
  • Location: in a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a southern suburb of Rouen located 128 kilometres north-west of Paris.
  • Assailants were armed with knives.
  • Tactic: slitting priest’s throat/ second victim seriously injured (“between life and death”).
  • Hostages: two nuns and two churchgoers.
  • Anti-terrorism investigators have been summoned in the case.
  • French PM: “The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together,” he wrote on Twitter.
  • The Vatican: pope’s office condemned the “barbarous killing” of the priest, saying the crime was even more heinous because it took place in a sacred place.
  • News agencies will compete to get as accurate a report as they can get due to the incident occuring while France is in a state of emergency which has been extended for the fourth time.


Normandy: Catholic Church

Key Details:


  • The Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, who was attending a Catholic gathering in Poland, said: “I cry out to God with all men of goodwill. I would invite non-believers to join in the cry.
  • ”The Catholic Church cannot take weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among men.”



Normandy Beheading

Key Details:


  • One of the two knifemen was a convicted terrorist who was known to the French authorities and should have been monitored with an electronic tag.
  • He attempted to travel to Syria in 2015 to fight with Islamic State but was arrested in Turkey.
  • The assailant should have been living with his parents under a court order.
  • He spent a year in prison before release on march 2nd.
  • He was required to wear an electronic bracelet and had returned to live with his parents, said to be close to the Catholic church which was targeted this morning.
  • President Hollande: ”Daesh has declared war on us, we must fight this war by all means, while respecting the rule of law, what makes us a democracy,”
  • The fresh development will pile further pressure on France’s security services, which were already facing criticism for their response to the Nice attack which left 84 people dead.



Assessment: Normandy Beheading

An attack on sacred land prompts for a more inclusive range of victims in France as well as a greater emphasis on security. The first question that comes to most news agencies is if it is related to ISIS/Islamic Jihadists/extremists. If not then it might be a case of mental illness. It does not matter who the suspects are, but the why is more important because this is likely to be the reason given for more extreme security measures.



Assessment: Normandy and 5GW

From the perspective of human security one can argue that due to the failure of states in fulfilling their role to provide security, instead, individuals take it into their own hands – using 5GW, unconventional, asymmetric tactics – to fulfil their own interpretation of security. An interpretation usually stemming from an idea of sentiment or nostalgia of what security used to feel like which has resulted in mass hysteria, panic and casualties. A growing trend in such individual incidents is the development of its tribal nature – the anti establishment and anti minorities nature of global attacks. The Christian attack will be a big one; a provocation into a crusade.

The tribal nature can also be associated with religion vs the state (representing secularism). In this sense, groups are retreating to safety into those movements and communities which share their values. As attacks increase the violence and polarisation will increase. What is left is the issue of human security vs state security. However, the issue being layered with Christian vs Muslim rhetoric, that is what this incident is attempting to do. To put these two groups in opposition to each other – the breaking down of the Grey Zone where Muslims and Westerners co-exist – and here the clash of civilizations thesis echoes.