Two assailants have been "neutralised" by police after a hostage-taking in a church in the northern city of Rouen, the interior ministry said tonight.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was on his way to the scene of the crime, which comes with France on edge after the Bastille Day massacre which left 84 people dead in Nice.

Earlier, two men armed with knives took several people hostage in a church in a town in France's northern Normandy region, it emerged.

Between four and six people were being held by the assailants in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near the city of Rouen.

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At least one hostage, a priest, was killed, a police source said.

A second hostage was in critical condition.

A priest, two sisters from a local order and two churchgoers were among those held.

Footage from the scene shows emergency crews arriving at the scene and one person being stretchered into an ambulance.

The two men rushed into the church during a morning service, soon after 9am.

"Two men armed with knives entered the church by the back entrance, and have taken five hostages," said a local police source.

A source said a third third nun had escaped and raised the alarm. Saint-Etienne du Rouvray has a population of 30,000 and is around seven miles from Rouen.

- Daily Mail and AFP