‘Killers chanting in Arabic film priest’s throat-slitting’: Details about French church attack

Police and rescue workers work at the scene after two assailants had taken five people hostage in the church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen in Normandy, France, July 26, 2016. © Steve Bonet
An attacker that stormed a French church and slit an 84-year-old priest’s throat has been identified as Adel Kermiche. He was known to police and had travelled to Syria several times. A witness says the killers videoed the act while chanting in Arabic.

Speaking anonymously, a nun told Le Figaro that the terrorists rushed in suddenly.

“I left when they began to attack Father Jacques. I do not even know if they realized that I was leaving,” she said.

Another nun, Sister Danielle,  BFM TV that the attackers “recorded themselves.”

“They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It’s a horror,” she said.

Here is what is known about the atrocious murder so far.


Police say two people were involved in the attack. According to French prosecutor Francois Molin, one of the attackers was named as Adel Kermiche, 19. The identity of the second perpetrator still remains unknown. Both have been shot dead by police.

 to Le Figaro, one of the assailants had vowed to commit such an act beforehand.

“He talked about Islam and things like this should be done,” Le Figaro quotes a man, whose identity was not disclosed, as saying. “He told me – I’ll commit an attack on a church,” the man went on to say.

French channel BMF TV cited one of the witnesses as saying that both assailants spoke Arabic.

Weapons and location

Police say the 84-year old priest was killed with a knife. One of the attackers was found to have been carrying an explosive belt made of aluminum foil and three knives, Molin said. 

Another also carried a weapon made of aluminum and a backpack containing a fake explosive device, he added.

The killing took place in the small town of St-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of the city of Rouen in northern France.

French Leexpress reports that the town had been on the radar of authorities in 2014, when several people were arrested there for attempting to travel to Syria.

Philippe de Villers, a former French presidential candidate, told RT that the fact that a place of worship was targeted is significant. “This new murder presents something completely new. Before they used to strike the police, passers-by, or those on holiday – now they are targeting those who are religious,” he said.

Potential Terror Links

Kermiche tried to reach Syria twice in 2015, first attempting to pass under the radar of authorities in March of last year, according to Molin. However, he was arrested in Germany after trying to use his brother’s ID. Kermiche was subsequently put under surveillance in France.

He left home nearly two months later and an international warrant was issued for his arrest. In May of 2015, Kermiche was arrested near Geneva after Turkish authorities expelled him for attempting to reach Syria. He was then transferred to Switzerland.

On May 22, 2015, Kermiche was handed over to French authorities and put on trial, which resulted in him being put under provisional surveillance and house arrest. He also had to report to a local police station once a week.

In March of 2016, the house arrest order was dropped, but Kermiche has been required to wear an electronic tag ever since.