The Men Who Killed a French Priest

Authorities identified both men who attacked a church as 19-year-olds who were on the country’s terrorist watch list.

Francois Mori / AP

NEWS BRIEF French authorities have identified the second man involved in the deadly attack on a church in Normandy.

Security forces knew the man, 19-year-old Abdel-Malik Nabil Petitjean, as a potential extremist, and he had been on a watch list before Tuesday’s attack that killed Father Jacques Hamel, 85.

Authorities said that after Mass that morning Petitjean and his accomplice, Adel Kermiche, also 19, stormed the church and took everyone inside hostage. They demanded those inside kneel. When Hamel declined, they killed him with a knife.

Kermiche was also on the French terrorism watch list—a fact that will likely raise criticism of the government. As Reuters reported:

Security services had on June 29 opened a special file on Petitjean for becoming radicalized, a police source said separately. The government has said there are about 10,500 people with so-called 'S files' related to potential jihadi activities in France.

His accomplice, Adel Kermiche, had already been identified by police. He was known to intelligence services after failed bids to reach Syria to wage jihad.

Kermiche had been arrested and wore an electronic bracelet as he awaited trial for charges of membership in a terrorist organization. Reuters reported that just 13 terrorism suspects and people convicted of terrorist ties wear similar tracking devices. Some in the government have said that all suspected terrorists should be tagged with the electronic monitors, possibly  jailed, even if they have not committed a crime. President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party has called that idea unconstitutional.

This is the fourth high-profile terrorist attack in France in less than two years. In 2015, attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine, in January and several locations in Paris in November killed nearly 150 people. Earlier this month, a man drove a truck through a crowded street in Nice during Bastille Day, killing 84. The attackers in all cases pledged allegiance to ISIS.