France church terrorist identified

French jihadist who took part in a church attack in Normandy identified as 19-year-old Adel Kermiche, who was under police surveillance.

Ben Ariel ,

ISIS flag (illustration)
ISIS flag (illustration)

The French jihadist who on Tuesday took part in a church attack in Normandy in which a priest was killed has been identified as 19-year-old Adel Kermiche, AFP reports.

Kermich was one of two attackers who stormed a Catholic church in the northern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during morning mass, slitting the throat of an 86-year-old priest and leaving a worshipper with serious injuries, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.

The attack, claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group, comes with France still in mourning less than two weeks after Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel plowed a truck into a crowd in the city of Nice, killing 84 people and injuring over 300.

Molins said that Kermiche first came to the attention of anti-terror officials when a member of his family alerted him as 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, according to AFP.

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.

Kermiche was released and fitted with an electronic bracelet which allowed him to leave his house on weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 1230 a.m., said Molins.

It was during this time, that he and another attacker entered the centuries-old stone Saint-Etienne church, taking hostage the 86-year-old priest, three nuns and two worshipers.

One of the nuns managed to escape and call police, who, upon arrival, tried to negotiate with the hostage-takers through a small door.

Molins said police were unable to launch an assault on the church as three hostages were lined up in front of the door.

Two nuns and one worshipper then exited the church followed by the two attackers, one carrying a handgun, who charged police shouting "Allahu akbar", according to AFP.

One of the attackers was carrying a "fake explosive device covered in aluminum foil" and three knives, and the other was holding in his hand a kitchen timer covered in foil, and carrying a backpack containing a similar fake bomb.

"The two were neutralized" and killed by police, said Molins.

He further added that a 17-year-old born in Algeria had been taken into custody. He is the younger brother of a suspect "wanted under an international arrest warrant for having left to the Iraq-Syria zone".