‘Nothing is being done’: French outraged after police missed attackers that killed priest
“We don’t recognize this country anymore,” locals told RT after attackers killed a priest by slitting his throat in the French town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. President Hollande has acknowledged France's “war” against ISIS, but has failed to toughen laws.
Residents are frightened to leave their homes because they fear becoming the next victim of a brutal attack.
“It scares me that this happened here, in my hometown. I am shocked. When I go out, I will feel scared for my safety,'' a young woman told RT’s Anastasia Churkina.
“Their tactics are vile. To attack a church, a priest, in the way they did is inhumane,” a local man said.
French President Francois Hollande has met with the country’s religious leaders, in an attempt to ease tensions following the latest attack. The leaders have asked him for extra security.
Experts believe that Western governments have yet to recognize that extremists are targeting Christians.
“You look at extreme, brutal methods that ISIS has used against Christians, and it was evident that they [would] start doing the same things in Europe. I think it’s extremely alarming, and even more alarming that our political leaders are in denial, they don’t want to acknowledge that there is religious[ly]-motivated violence. It’s not only a political, but a spiritual battle,” Iben Thranholm, one of Denmark’s most read political columnists, told RT.
Adding to the horror is the fact that the end of the battle is no where in sight.
In February, Europol officials warned of some 5,000 so-called ''foreign fighters'' who had served in the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) military in Syria and Iraq. Thirty percent of them are now back in the EU, and hundreds could be potential terrorists, officials said in the report.
This is exactly what locals are fearing – that terrorists are walking the streets of France, in every corner of the country.
''I think the Islamist groups are everywhere,” a local resident told RT.
Along with the fear comes outrage over the government's actions – or lack of actions.
“They [politicians] know who the radicals are. They have their names. And nothing is being done about it,” a resident said.
Another local girl, seemingly nervous, told RT that the radical Islamists known to the authorities “should be detained.”
“People like that shouldn't be roaming free, that's not possible,” she said.
In the latest attack, both terrorists were killed by police after running out of the church. One of the terrorists’ identities was confirmed as 19-year-old local Adel Kermiche, who had wanted to go to Syria in 2015 but was seized in Turkey and deported back to France.
Kermiche was arrested in May 2015 and spent almost a year in prison, before being released in March 2016. He was forced to wear an electronic bracelet following his release, but was otherwise free. He then returned to stay with his parents at their home, according to reports.
Officials, both secular and religious, and locals have been wondering how the 19-year-old terrorist was able to walk free, especially considering what authorities already knew about him.
"It should not be possible for someone awaiting trial on charges of having links to terrorism to be released" on house arrest, the deputy chief of France's police union, Frederic Lagache, told AFP.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Karabila, who leads the regional council of Muslim worship, said: "How could a person wearing an electronic bracelet carry out an attack? Where are the police?"
President Hollande has acknowledged that France is at war.
“We are facing the Islamic State which has declared war. We must fight this war, using all means,” he said on Tuesday, adding in a separate statement that “this war will be long.”
At the same time, the president has rejected calls from the opposition to toughen the country’s legislation in the battle against terrorism. Former French president and current opposition head Nicolas Sarkozy urged the government to "thoroughly change the strategy of our counter-attack.”
"Our enemy has no taboos, no limits, no morals, no borders," Sarkozy said on Tuesday.
The opposition’s main demand in terms of reform is that anyone who is suspected of being radicalized should be put in detention. They also want to make sure that convicted terrorists aren’t freed from prison after having served time, if they are still viewed as dangerous.
However, Hollande has denied that the government should change its strategy of dealing with the deadly – and now almost daily – attacks.
"Restricting our freedoms will not make the fight against terrorism more effective," he said.