Adel Kermiche

Adel Kermiche was one of two assailants to storm a church in the French town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray on July 26, 2016, killing the priest, Jacques Hamel, and taking hostage the four others in attendance.“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761;
Kim Willsher, “France in shock again after Isis murder of priest in Normandy,” Guardian (London), July 26, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/france-shock-second-isis-attack-12-days.
Kermiche, who was 19 years old, and his fellow assailant, Abdel Malik Petitjean, were killed by French police as they attempted to exit the church.“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761. The ISIS-affiliated Amaq News Agency released a video the following day showing Kermiche and Petitjean swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s leader.Alastair Jamieson and Nancy Ing, “France Church Attack: Abdel-Malik Petitjean Was Known Potential Radical,” NBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/france-church-attack-abdel-malik-petitjean-was-known-potential-radical-n618661. An investigation later uncovered communications on the encrypted messaging service Telegram between the two men and Rachid Kassim, a French-born ISIS recruiter operating out of Iraq and Syria.Jérémie Pham-lé, “Rachid Kassim, le djihadiste qui a inspiré les assassins du père Hamel,” L’Express (Paris), August 18, 2016, http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/saint-etienne-du-rouvray-rachid-kassim-le-djihadiste-qui-a-inspire-les-assassins-du-pere-hamel_1822206.html.

Kermiche was born to a working-class Algerian familyMichel Rose, “French church attacker: from troubled childhood to altar killer,” Reuters, July 29, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-attacks-france-killer-idUSKCN1091U5. in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, the town in northern France where he would later carry out the attack.Lucy Clarke-Billings, “Adel Kermiche: What we know about the Normandy church attacker,” Newsweek, July 27, 2016, http://www.newsweek.com/adel-kermiche-what-we-know-about-normandy-church-attacker-484351. Neighbors remembered him as a friendly child who played with other children and liked video games and the Internet.Adam Fleming and Larissa Kennelly, “France church attack: Friends’ efforts to save ‘brainwashed’ Kermiche,” BBC News, July 27, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36907945. According to Kermiche’s legal file, he had shown “psychological troubles” and had been regularly hospitalized since the age of six,“French church killer Adel Kermiche: ‘A ticking time bomb,’” Irish Times (Dublin), July 27, 2016, http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/french-church-killer-adel-kermiche-a-ticking-time-bomb-1.2735986. and was sent to a specialist school for behavioral problems at the age of thirteen.Michel Rose, “French church attacker: from troubled childhood to altar killer,” Reuters, July 29, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-attacks-france-killer-idUSKCN1091U5.

According to one schoolmate, Kermiche became increasingly radicalized after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) launched its Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January 2015.French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761. Following that attack, Kermiche reportedly broke away from friendsAdam Fleming and Larissa Kennelly, “France church attack: Friends’ efforts to save ‘brainwashed’ Kermiche,” BBC News, July 27, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36907945. and began making contact with extremists on the Internet. French authorities first investigated Kermiche in March 2015 when a man named Adel Bouauon entered Syria carrying a French identity card in Kermiche’s name. Days later, Kermiche would make his own first attempt to travel to Syria.Kim Willsher, “Teenagers who killed French priest made film declaring allegiance to Isis,” Guardian (London), July 28, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/27/french-authorities-under-pressure-to-explain-release-of-priests-killer. Between January and May of 2015, Kermiche also reportedly engaged in sham marriages with several girls in Islamic ceremonies, only to repudiate them days afterwards.David Chazan, “Normandy church attack: Who are the suspects, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik P?” Telegraph (London), July 27, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/27/normandy-church-attack-who-is-the-suspect-adel-kermiche/. One of the girls was later charged for her role in a September 2016 plot to bomb Notre Dame Cathedral.“France says three women arrested in failed attack near Notre Dame Cathedral were radicalized by Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-notre-dame-islamic-state-20160909-snap-story.html.

Kermiche made two attempts to travel to Syria.“Adel Kermiche: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, July 26, 2016, http://heavy.com/news/2016/07/adel-kermiche-isis-french-priest-murdered-video-behead-islam-muslim-terrorist-trial-ankle-bracelet/. On the first, in March 2015, he was stopped by German police in Munich and accused of attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS using his brother’s passport. Consequently, he was deported back to France and placed on parole awaiting trial.Lucy Clarke-Billings, “Adel Kermiche: What we know about the Normandy church attacker,” Newsweek, July 27, 2016, http://www.newsweek.com/adel-kermiche-what-we-know-about-normandy-church-attacker-484351;
Jessica McBride, “Adel Kermiche: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, July 26, 2016, http://heavy.com/news/2016/07/adel-kermiche-isis-french-priest-murdered-video-behead-islam-muslim-terrorist-trial-ankle-bracelet/.
He made a second attempt in May 2015, but was stopped in Turkey and again sent back to France, where he was detained for ten months until mid-March 2016, when a judge allowed his release under house arrest on the condition that he report to a probation officer weekly and wear an electronic ankle bracelet.“France church attack: Knifeman identified as 19yo Adel Kermiche who was stopped joining jihadists in Syria,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, July 26, 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-27/french-church-attacker-was-stopped-joining-syrian-jihad-twice/7663644;
Alissa J. Rubin and Adam Nossiter, “French Ask Whether Priest’s Killer, Listed as a Threat, Could Have Been Stopped,” New York Times, July 27, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/world/europe/france-attack-priest-church-syria.html.

After his release from custody, Kermiche reportedly did not trigger suspicion, checking in with his probation officer weekly and completing all of his other requirements.Alissa J. Rubin and Adam Nossiter, “French Ask Whether Priest’s Killer, Listed as a Threat, Could Have Been Stopped,” New York Times, July 27, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/world/europe/france-attack-priest-church-syria.html. However, others claimed that he was vocal about his support for ISIS.Adam Fleming and Larissa Kennelly, “France church attack: Friends’ efforts to save ‘brainwashed’ Kermiche,” BBC News, July 27, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36907945. One acquaintance said that Kermiche frequently discussed Islam, and that two months prior to the attack, he stated that he was “going to attack a church.”“French church killer Adel Kermiche: ‘A ticking time bomb,’” Irish Times (Dublin), July 27, 2016, http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/french-church-killer-adel-kermiche-a-ticking-time-bomb-1.2735986. At the time of the July 2016 attack, Kermiche was still awaiting trial for his 2015 terrorism charges.“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761.

Kermiche and Petitjean met via the Internet only days before they carried out their joint attack. The two reportedly first made contact over Telegram on the night of July 21, 2016.“Saint-Etienne du Rouvray: les échanges glaçants des terroristes avant l’attaque,” L’Express (Paris), September 11, 2016, http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/saint-etienne-du-rouvray-rachid-kassim-le-djihadiste-qui-a-inspire-les-assassins-du-pere-hamel_1822206.html. It is suspected that the two were put into contact with one another by Kassim, who is believed to have orchestrated the attack remotely.Jérémie Pham-lé, “Rachid Kassim, le djihadiste qui a inspiré les assassins du père Hamel,” L’Express (Paris), August 18, 2016, http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/saint-etienne-du-rouvray-rachid-kassim-le-djihadiste-qui-a-inspire-les-assassins-du-pere-hamel_1822206.html. Kermiche and Petitjean first met in person when Petitjean travelled 700 kilometers to Kermiche’s home in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray on July 22, the day after they first made contact online.Lara Marlowe, “Priest’s killers were Isis apprentices who met through app,” Irish Times (Dublin), August 2, 2016, http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/priest-s-killers-were-isis-apprentices-who-met-through-app-1.2741769;
“Saint-Etienne du Rouvray: les échanges glaçants des terroristes avant l’attaque,” L’Express (Paris), September 11, 2016, http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/saint-etienne-du-rouvray-les-echanges-glacants-des-terroristes-avant-l-attaque_1848943.html.
The two decided on the Church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Kermiche’s hometown as a target.“Saint-Etienne du Rouvray: les échanges glaçants des terroristes avant l’attaque,” L’Express (Paris), September 11, 2016, http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/saint-etienne-du-rouvray-les-echanges-glacants-des-terroristes-avant-l-attaque_1848943.html. Although Kermiche wore a tracking anklet, it was turned off for four hours each morning, allowing them a window of time in which to carry out the attack.French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761;
“French church killer Adel Kermiche: ‘A ticking time bomb,’” Irish Times (Dublin), July 27, 2016, http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/french-church-killer-adel-kermiche-a-ticking-time-bomb-1.2735986.

Petitjean and Kermiche launched their attack at the Church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray on July 26, 2016. At approximately 9:25 a.m. local time, the two stormed the church, where morning Mass was taking place. After entering the church and taking two parishioners and two nuns as hostages, a third nun was able to escape as the two assailants reportedly forced the 86-year-old priest present, Jacques Hamel, to his knees, slitting his throat.“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761;
Kim Willsher, “France in shock again after Isis murder of priest in Normandy,” Guardian (London), July 26, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/france-shock-second-isis-attack-12-days.
While Hamel bled to death on the floor, Petitjean and Kermiche forced one of the hostages, Guy Coponet, to record the two assailants chanting what the victims described as an Arabic sermon before stabbing him in the hip and throat, leaving him seriously wounded.Jamie Schram and Yaron Steinbuch, “France was warned about terrorist who killed priest in church attack,” New York Post, July 28, 2016, http://nypost.com/2016/07/28/france-was-warned-about-terrorist-who-killed-priest-in-church-attack/;
“French survivor tells of Rouen priest’s jihadist murder,” BBC News, September 26, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37505350;
Euan McKirdy, “Second French church attacker identified,” CNN, July 28, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/europe/france-normandy-church-attack/index.html.
The nun that escaped, known as Sister Danielle, managed to contact local police.“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761.

According to prosecutor François Molins, the police attempted to negotiate with the terrorists via a side door, but were unable to enter the building due to the use of the remaining three hostages as human shields.Tim Hume, Eliott C. McLaughlin, and Margot Haddad, “Hollande: Deadly church attack in France carried out in name of ISIS,” CNN, July 27, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/26/europe/france-normandy-church-hostage/index.html;
“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761.
The police unit involved in the rescue attempt was the Brigade de Recherce et d’Intervention (Research and Intervention Brigade or BRI), which specializes in hostage situations.“Adel Kermiche et Abdel Malik Petitjean, tueurs de l’église de Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray,” L’Express (Paris), http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/fait-divers/adel-kermiche-et-abdel-malik-petitjean-tueurs-de-l-eglise-de-saint-etienne-du-rouvray_1816387.html. At 10:45 a.m. local time, Petitjean and Kermiche attempted to leave the church, continuing to use the hostages as human shields for their exit.“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761;
Kim Willsher, “France in shock again after Isis murder of priest in Normandy,” Guardian (London), July 26, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/france-shock-second-isis-attack-12-days.
One of the assailants reportedly carried a fake explosive device attached to a kitchen timer, and the other wore a fake explosive belt and one also reportedly had a gun.Tim Hume, Eliott C. McLaughlin, and Margot Haddad, “Hollande: Deadly church attack in France carried out in name of ISIS,” CNN, July 27, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/26/europe/france-normandy-church-hostage/index.html;
“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761.
The two assailants charged forward, shouting “Allahu akhbar!” but they were shot dead by the police.“French church attack: What we know,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36900761;
Kim Willsher, “France in shock again after Isis murder of priest in Normandy,” Guardian (London), July 26, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/france-shock-second-isis-attack-12-days.

The day after the attack, ISIS’s Amaq news agency released a video showing Petitjean and Kermiche swearing their allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Alastair Jamieson and Nancy Ing, “France Church Attack: Abdel-Malik Petitjean Was Known Potential Radical,” NBC News, July 28, 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/france-church-attack-abdel-malik-petitjean-was-known-potential-radical-n618661. While it remained unclear at the time whether Petitjean and Kermiche received any direct instructions or support from ISIS, an audio file was later released through Telegram in which the speaker, believed by authorities to be Kassim, praised Kermiche and Petitjean for their actions.“Did jihadist Rashid Kassim lure French youths to plot attacks?” BBC News, September 15, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37340697. An investigation later discovered that the three communicated over Telegram,Jérémie Pham-lé, “Rachid Kassim, le djihadiste qui a inspiré les assassins du père Hamel,” L’Express (Paris), August 18, 2016, http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/saint-etienne-du-rouvray-rachid-kassim-le-djihadiste-qui-a-inspire-les-assassins-du-pere-hamel_1822206.html. and it is suspected that Kassim first brought the two into contact“Did jihadist Rashid Kassim lure French youths to plot attacks?” BBC News, September 15, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37340697. and directed them in carrying out the attack.Jérémie Pham-lé, “Rachid Kassim, le djihadiste qui a inspiré les assassins du père Hamel,” L’Express (Paris), August 18, 2016, http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/saint-etienne-du-rouvray-rachid-kassim-le-djihadiste-qui-a-inspire-les-assassins-du-pere-hamel_1822206.html.

Extremist entity
ISIS
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, territory-controlling, religious, terrorist, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Islamist, jihadist, pan-Islamist, Salafist, takfiri
Position(s):
Domestic terrorist

ISIS is a violent jihadist group based in Iraq and Syria. The group has declared wilayas (provinces) in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the North Caucasus. ISIS has also waged attacks in Turkey, Lebanon, France, Belgium, Iraq, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Tunisia, and Kuwait.

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