Monday 5 December 2016

Normandy killer boasted on messaging service of plan to cause 'carnage'

David Chazan and Lexi Finnigan

Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30

A still image taken yesterday from an undated video posted on
social media by Isil, which it claims shows the two men who
attacked the church in France. Photo: Reuters
A still image taken yesterday from an undated video posted on social media by Isil, which it claims shows the two men who attacked the church in France. Photo: Reuters

One of the Isil killers of a priest coldly boasted of his plan to cause "carnage" at a church on a messaging service popular with jihadists in the weeks before the attack.

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"You take a knife, you go to a church, you make carnage, bam!" Adel Kermiche said in an audio recording shared with about 200 people on the encrypted Telegram app.

A floral tribute to Father Jaques Hamel. Photo: AP Photo/Francois Mori
A floral tribute to Father Jaques Hamel. Photo: AP Photo/Francois Mori

"You cut off two or three heads and it's good, it's over," he said in a grim warning of the brutal murder of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel at a church in a quiet Normandy town.

Just over an hour before Kermiche and Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean slit the priest's throat, before being shot dead by police in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, he sent a final message: "Download what's going to come, and share it en masse."

Kermiche, who was under house arrest and tagged, had been exchanging messages for months on the service, used by terrorists because it allows them to hide their communications from the security services.

He recounted being mentored by a "Sheikh" he met in prison and said it was too complicated to travel to Syria or Iraq so he "might as well attack here".

The authenticity of the messages, obtained by the French magazine 'L'Express', was confirmed by a security source.

The government faced more questions over security yesterday after it emerged that four days before the attack, French anti-terrorism officers sent a photograph of Petitjean to all police stations in France.

It was accompanied by a note saying a foreign intelligence service had warned he was planning an attack. But it did not give his name as the photograph had not been matched with his security file.

The person in the photo also appears to be one of a pair seen in a video posted yesterday by Isil's news agency, police sources said. The video claimed the two men were the church attackers and showed them pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Isil's leader.

Petitjean had been spotted at a Turkish airport on June 10, with another French national, apparently en route to Syria. Turkish security services reportedly delayed flagging him up to their French counterparts, who only placed him on their terror watch list on June 29.

Read more: France priest killer boasted of plans to cause "carnage" at a church

Read more: Murder of priest in church marks new tactic for Islamic State group

They believed he was in Syria, when in fact he had turned back for France on June 11. His companion, who was also turned back by Turkish authorities, was arrested in France and was being questioned by counter-terrorism officers last night.

Three of Petitjean's family were also being questioned to build a more detailed profile of the teenager.

Petitjean, who was shot in the face, was identified when police traced his mother, Yasmina Boukkezoula, at their home in Aix-les-Bains, in south-eastern France, and matched DNA. Distraught and disbelieving, she said it was "impossible that I gave birth to the devil".

Petitjean's mother said her son had never spoken about Isil.

Amid a row over the release of Kermiche from prison while awaiting trial for membership of a terror group, a spokesman for the ministry of justice said seven other terrorist suspects in France are under the same type of surveillance, as are six people convicted of terrorist offences.

The decision to place him under house arrest at his parents' home was opposed by prosecutors who warned he was dangerous. Nevertheless, judges gave him permission to go out for four hours a day, which allowed him to carry out the attack.

Meanwhile, France is to create a National Guard of 40,000 as part of efforts to step up security in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks, President Francois Hollande announced yesterday. The force will initially be formed by transferring reservists from other units. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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