Friday 23 February 2018

Killer was on terror list and wore electronic tag

Adel Kermiche
Adel Kermiche

David Chazan

One of the terrorists who cut the throat of Fr Jacques Hamel had been under police supervision and wearing an electronic tag.

French police and intelligence services were last night under intense scrutiny, after it emerged that one of the killers, named as 19-year-old local man Adel Kermiche, was known to have been radicalised and on a watch list as a potential threat to national security.

His tag was turned off for a few hours every morning, exactly the time of the church attack.

It was also reported that the church had been on a "hit list" found on a 24-year-old Algerian jihadist who had planned attacks last year in a Parisian suburb. Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a computer science student, was arrested by French police who are investigating whether he was directed to carry out attacks on churches by Isil.

The country's security services have been accused of a series of failings after attacks by Islamist jihadists in the past 18 months.

Kermiche began making contact with radicals on the internet after the 'Charlie Hebdo' and kosher supermarket attacks in January 2015 and came to authorities' attention when he tried to help a teenager from Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray join Isil.

He also twice attempted to go to Syria himself, but was arrested once in Munich and later sent back from Turkey to Geneva, where he was charged with "criminal association in connection with terrorism".

He was returned to France and jailed for 10 months. When he came out of prison in March this year, he was tagged so he could be tracked. A French security source said Kermiche was known to be in contact with Maxime Hauchard, a French jihadist identified as an Isil executioner.

Mohammed Karabila, the head of the Regional Council of the Muslim Faith for Haute-Normandie, said: "The person who committed this odious act is known and he has been followed by the police for at least one-and-a-half years."

Right-wing opposition parties have accused the ruling Socialist government of not doing enough to prevent recent attacks. Former centre-right president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been intensely critical of the government's response to terrorism in the wake of the Nice massacre on July 14, urged it "to immediately implement the recommendations of the right".

Among the measures Mr Sarkozy wants introduced are the deportation of foreign nationals who break the law, even if the crimes are relatively minor, and tagging of anyone suspected of radicalisation.

President Francois Hollande rejected the criticisms, saying: "Restricting our freedoms, granting exceptions from our constitutional rules would not bring efficiency to our fight against terrorism and would weaken the necessary cohesion of our nation."

He said France's state of emergency, in place since the Paris attacks last November, would be strengthened, vowing: "We will win this war."

Meanwhile, police in Nice have been forced to hold an internal investigation into their preparations for the city's Bastille Day event amid accusations it was woefully unprotected.

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