One of the assailants who slit the throat of an elderly French priest in France on July 26 in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was returned to France in May after being detained in Turkey, the prosecutor looking into the incident said.
French Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference July 26 that Adel Kermiche, 19, had been known to the French authorities before the shock church attack in a Normandy town, according to AFP.
Kermiche and another unidentified man stormed the centuries-old stone church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, taking priest Jacques Hamel hostage along with three nuns and two worshippers before slitting the elderly cleric’s throat.
He lived in his parents’ modest home – less than two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the church – where he spent much of the day under curfew, fitted with an electronic tag while awaiting trial for alleged links to terror.
A family member had raised the alarm after Kermiche went missing destined for war-torn Syria in March 2015.
German authorities arrested him shortly afterwards as he attempted to transit the country using his brother’s identity.
He was returned to France where he was detained on March 23, 2015 for “criminal association in connection with terrorism” and preparing a terrorist act. He was released on bail but banned from leaving the Seine-Maritime region of northern France.
Six weeks later he fled the family home once again and was ultimately traced to Turkey where he was detained on May 13, 2015.
Turkey returned Kermiche to France, where he was arrested and remanded in custody before being released on bail subject to a curfew as he awaited trial for links to terrorism, Molins said.
“We knew he wanted to go to Syria,” said a 60-year-old neighbor of the assailant’s family, who added that he “never saw him go to the mosque” that the family attended.
“He never spoke to us,” said the neighbor.
“The last time I saw him was on Friday [July 22]. He was playing football in his garden.”
One of Kermiche’s acquaintances, a youngster from the area of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, told Le Parisien newspaper that he was a “hyperactive child” who was excluded from school at the age of 12 due to “behavior issues” – adding that he was a “time bomb.”
“He only spoke about Syria, and his dream of killing [Syrian President] Bashar [al-Assad’s] soldiers,” they said.
French daily Le Monde reported that Kermiche had struggled with psychological issues for much of his life, having been monitored from the age of six and hospitalized on several occasions in his teenage years – including 15 days in a specialist psychiatric unit.
Another of the town’s residents, a teenager who said he knew the attacker, told RTL radio he was not surprised by what happened July 26.
“He talked about it all the time… He spoke about Islam, that he was going to do stuff like that. He told me two months ago, ‘I’m going to do a church.’ I didn’t believe him. He said a lot of things,” said the teenager.