French priest killer attempted to join IS in Syria

French priest killer attempted to join IS in Syria
Video:The teenage killer of a priest in France was under the radar of French security services after he twice tried to join the Islamic State group in Syria.
3 min read
27 July, 2016

One of the attackers involved in the Islamic State group claimed murder of a French village priest was being watched by security services after attempting to travel to Syria on two occasions.

Adel Kermiche, an 18-year-old Algerian-born jihadi sympathiser, stormed a Normandy church with an unnamed accomplice and videoed the murder.

He was turned back at the border by German police in March 2015 after being accused of attempting to travel to Syria. On his second attempt, just two months later, Turkish authorities sent Kermiche to Geneva, where he was charged with "criminal association in connection with terrorism".

The teenager then spent 10 months in custody in France, until he was released and tagged following a failed bid by the public prosecutor to keep him in custody.

The electronic tag Kermiche was required to wear meant that he could only leave his home between 8:30am and 12:30am on weekdays. It was during this four-hour window that Kermiche and his accomplice stormed into the local church and slit the throat of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel. An unnamed police source has said that his tag had been switched off beforehand.

Psychological problems

Reports from psychological examinations carried out in October 2015 and February 2016 reveal that Kermiche had been suffering from depression and "other mental health problems".

According to the documents leaked to Le Monde, Kermiche said "I am a Muslim grounded in the values of mercy and goodness... I am not an extremist".

He also expressed an ambition to get married and become become a mental health nurse.

"I want to get my life back, to see my friends, to get married," he told the examining magistrate prior to his release.

The prosecutor dealing with Kermiche was not convinced, however, and said at the time that "even if he is asking for a second chance, there's a very strong chance he will do the same thing if he is released".

A "strange" kid

According to the Tribune de Geneve, Kermiche became radcalised after the attack on the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. Following this event, the youngster became reclusive, began attending a local mosque and started proselytising to relatives.

France's NouvelObs reported that Kermiche's local mosque had asked him to stay away from their prayer services after his failed attempts to go to Syria - a request that he ignored.

The magazine also quoted a local man, who referred to the killer by his first name, as having said: "Adel, he didn't have much in his head, he wasn't very smart and he'd never succeeded at anything."

Le Parisien quoted another local who said "Everyone knows that this kid was a ticking time bomb. He was too strange".

A mother's struggle

Following Kermiche's attempts to travel to Syria, his mother spoke to a Geneva newspaper to express her thoughts about what her son had done.

"He said that [Muslims] couldn't exercise their religion peacefully in France," his mother, a university professor, said. "He spoke with words that didn't belong to him. He was under a spell, like a cult."

She also added that authorities had rejected her request that her son be tagged with an electronic bracelet after his first arrest. 

"Fortunately, we managed to catch him in time, twice. If he had made it to Syria, I would have written off my son. I want to know who messed up my kid. We don't know where to turn for help".