French Church Attacker Was Monitored Closely After Trying to Reach Syria

One of the assailants in the attack has been identified as 19-year-old Adel Kermiche. After last attempt to reach Syria, he was forced to wear electronic tag.

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A woman lights a candle near flowers and messages displayed in front of the city hall of the Normandy city of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray on July 26, 2016.
A woman lights a candle near flowers and messages displayed in front of the city hall of the Normandy city of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray on July 26, 2016.Credit: Charly Triballeau, AFP
Reuters
Reuters

One of the knifemen who attacked a church in northern France on Tuesday has been identified as 19-year-old Adel Kermiche, who was under close surveillance after two failed attempts to reach Syria last year, France's anti-terror prosecutor said.

After the last attempt in May, 2015, Kermiche, who was from the Normandy town where the attack took place, was detained until March. He was then released but forced to wear an electronic tag to track his whereabouts and was allowed to only leave his home for a few hours a day, prosecutor Francois Molins said.

Police were still seeking to identify the second of the two attackers and raids were underway, Molins told a news conference after the attack in which a priest was killed.

The two attackers slit the throat of 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel who was celebrating Mass in the church, killing him and gravely wounding one of the few worshippers present before being shot to death by police.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, the first inside a church in the West.

France is on high alert and under a state of emergency after an attack in the southern city of Nice on Bastille Day – July 14 – that killed 84 people that was claimed by the Islamic State group, as well as a series of attacks last year that killed 147 others around Paris.

French authorities increased security at churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship after the attacks in Paris last year, but ensuring constant, blanket security is difficult in a country with a church in every town and village.

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