France church attack: Kermiche friend 'detained before assault'

Adel Kermiche
Image caption Locals remembered Kermiche as a "geek" who loved the internet

A friend of one of the two men who killed a French priest in Normandy was detained only days before the attack took place, reports say.

The 17-year-old tried to travel to Syria last year with Adel Kermiche, French and Swiss media say.

The unnamed teenager was reportedly arrested in Geneva earlier this month and handed over to French authorities.

Days later, on Tuesday, his friend Kermiche went on to kill Father Jacques Hamel in his church near Rouen.

What we know about church attack

Kermiche 'was brainwashed'

How France is wrestling with jihadist terror

The news of the detention of a close friend of Kermiche, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video, comes at a time when French intelligence services are under close scrutiny.

Reports in Le Parisien and the Tribune de Geneve newspapers said it was not known why the 17-year-old, from northern France, went to Geneva earlier this month.

He had already tried to fly with Kermiche to Syria via Switzerland last year. Both were turned back from Turkey.

In the latest development, Swiss security services picked up the teenager, and another friend, on 20 July and handed them over to French authorities.

A source told AFP news agency that "nothing suggests he was in any way implicated" in the church attack on 26 July.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Father Jacques Hamel was a well-known figure in St-Etienne-du-Rouvray

After trying to leave to Syria, Kermiche was released with a monitoring tag earlier this year, despite prosecutors' call for his continued detention.

Kermiche and the other attacker, Abdel Malik Petitjean, were shot dead by police outside the church in St-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

They had slit the throat of Fr Hamel, 86, and taken hostages during Mass.

French security: In numbers


total number of prisoners


of those are tagged electronically

  • 20,000 total on French S list - thought to pose a security risk

  • 10,500 on the S list have links to Islamist groups

A French parliamentary report on 5 July called for a major revamp of the intelligence services, after an analysis of last year's Paris attacks which killed 147 people.

The head of the inquiry, judge and politician Georges Fenech, said French intelligence was aware of the jihadists before the attacks, but the services had failed to exchange information about them.

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