Jihadists attack church, slit priest’s throat
A FRENCH jihadist who was under house arrest on terror charges took part in a church attack in which a priest was killed, further inflaming tensions over security failures in the violence-weary nation.
Adel Kermiche, 19, was one of two attackers who stormed a Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-duRouvray during morning mass on July 26, slitting the throat of an 86-year-old priest, Jacques Hamel, and leaving a worshipper with serious injuries, said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.
The attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, comes with France still in mourning less than two weeks after Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a lorry into a crowd in the Riviera city of Nice, killing 84 people.
The carnage, the third major strike on France in 18 months, prompted a bitter political spat over alleged security failings and revelations over the church attack were likely to raise further questions.
Mr Molins said Mr Kermiche first came to the attention of anti-terror officials when a member of his family alerted them he was missing in March 2015. He was arrested by German officials and found to be using his brother’s identity in a bid to reach Syria.
He was charged and released under judicial supervision, but in May fled to Turkey where he was again arrested and returned to France where he was held in custody until March 2016.
Mr Kermiche was released and fitted with an electronic bracelet which allowed him to leave his house on weekdays between 8am and 12:30pm, said Mr Molins.
It was during this time that he and another attacker entered the centuries-old stone Saint-Etienne church, taking hostage Mr Hamel, three nuns and two worshippers.
One of the nuns managed to escape and call police, who, upon arrival, tried to negotiate with the hostage-takers.
The nun, Sister Danielle, told local radio RMC that Mr Hamel was wearing his white vestments and was at the foot of the altar when “they forced him to get on his knees and not move”.
“He tried to struggle, he tried,” she said, adding the men were speaking Arabic. –
People light candles in front of the city hall of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray on June 26 in tribute to a priest killed in the city’s church.