(Repeats Friday item)
* Kermiche received psychiatric treatment as child
* Failed to reach Syria twice in 2015
* Used app to communicate with other Islamist sympathisers
By Michel Rose
SAINT-ETIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY, France, July 29 Adel
Kermiche was an attention-seeking child whose behavioural
problems frequently led him to a psychiatric hospital and later
a specialist school. He died a coldblooded killer who slit the
throat of an elderly French priest in the name of Islamic State.
The son of a working class Franco-Algerian family living
just outside the Normandy city of Rouen, the teenager flipped
between model student and aggressor as a youngster. He blipped
on the radar of security services in early 2015, when he made
his first failed bid to reach Syria.
Kermiche burst into a church on the outskirts of Rouen
during morning mass on Tuesday with another teenage Islamic
militant and killed the 85-year-old father at the altar,
chanting in Arabic, before they were both shot dead by police.
"He was a loner. He was a troubled soul, he was all alone in
his head," said a neighbour of the Kermiche family house in a
leafy Rouen suburb where the 19-year-old was forced to live
under a court surveillance order. "All he would talk about was
A judicial source said Kermiche received regular
psycho-therapy and medication between the ages of six and 13, at
which point he was sent to school for pupils with behavioural
What role Kermiche's troubled background played in his
conversion to a killer is not clear. Kermiche's radicalisation,
however, was swift.
His mother told Swiss newspaper La Tribune de Geneve last
year that Kermiche became "bewitched" by hardline Islamic
ideology after militants attacked the satirical Charlie Hebdo
magazine in Paris in January, 2015. Two months later, he made
his first attempt to reach Syria to wage jihad.
Investigators are digging into the relationship between
Kermiche and Abdel-Malik Nabir Petitjean, who lived in a French
alpine town 700 km (440 miles) away from Kermiche, and how the
two communicated before staging their attack.
Kermiche frequently communicated with scores of followers on
Telegram, a private communication channel whose encrypted
message system makes tracking chatter difficult for intelligence
In audio posts obtained by L'Express magazine and whose
content was confirmed to Reuters by a police source, Kermiche
told about 200 followers that going to Syria was no longer an
option because of border controls, and urged them to launch
attacks on French soil instead.
"You get a knife, go to a church, spread carnage, boom. You
cut off two or three heads and you're done," he said.
Just hours before the attack, he posted another message
saying "Download what's coming next and share it widely!!!!". He
last logged onto the app at 9:46 a.m. from inside the
Saint-Etienne church, but he failed to post any video of the
The attack has raised questions over how security services
can clamp down on the proliferation of online videos urging
disillusioned Muslims to take up arms for Islamic State (IS) and
other groups, as well as channels of communication on social
A Telegram spokesman said its public content was moderated
on a 24/7 basis and "as a result IS channels usually go down
within less than a day, mostly within hours."
But he said Telegram, like other encrypted messengers, did
not have access to closed chats and communities and could not
moderate their content.
In November, Telegram said it had identified and blocked 78
Islamic State-related broadcast channels in 12 languages on its
Conservative politicians have been scathing of President
Francois Hollande's security record, branding him soft on
suspected militants. Kermiche himself was supposedly under close
surveillance and wore an electronic tag.
Friends said he would routinely try to indoctrinate them.
"Each time we said something to him he would come back at us
with a verse from the Koran," said 18-year-old Redwan, a school
friend of Kermiche. "He would tell us we had to fight for our
Muslim brothers, that France was a country of infidels."
He tried reaching Syria twice. The first time, he was
intercepted in Germany in March, 2015, using his brother's
identity card after his family reported him missing.
Sent back to France, he was charged with terrorism offences
but released on bail ahead of a trial. He was banned from
leaving his local area, but two months later he slipped away and
was detained in Turkey, this time travelling on his cousin's ID
France held Kermiche in detention until March this year when
a judge ruled him fit for release under strict supervision,
despite the protests of prosecutors. Forced to surrender his
passport and fitted with an electronic tag, Kermiche was
restricted to leaving his parents' home for a few hours a day.
Court documents first published by Le Monde and confirmed to
Reuters by a judicial source showed he told the judge he
regretted his attempts to leave for Syria.
"I'm a Muslim who believes in mercy, in doing good, I'm not
an extremist," he told the judge. "I want to get back my life,
see my friends, get married."
Marc Trevidic - a former anti-terrorism judge who placed
Kermiche under investigation but was not involved in the
decision to release him - said in a interview with L'Express
that he had struck him as determined and arrogant.
"His case is typical of these individuals desperate to go,
but that justice manages to keep here. So they get their revenge
by doing jihad in France," he was quoted as saying.
In his quiet neighbourhood of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray,
local people said he was still openly discussing ways to escape
"My son bumped into him in March at a bus stop. He told him
he had been pushed back from Turkey but would try again, he was
being manipulated," Sebastien, the father of Kermiche's former
school friend told Reuters at the local grocer.
"As a kid, he always needed to show off. He was hyperactive,
very nervous, he created trouble to get attention," he said.
Local residents said Kermiche did not come from a
dysfunctional family, with a mother who taught in a local high
school and a sister who trained as a doctor, adding that the
wider Muslim community was well integrated in the area.
At the local mosque, Mohammed Karabila, head of the regional
Muslim council, pointed at a small wall separating the mosque
from Saint-Etienne's second church as a demonstration of the
harmony between the town's religious communities. Kermiche, he
said, was unknown at the mosque.
"We would have liked him to come to the mosque," Karabila
said. "But today, these kids' mosque is Google, it's the
(Additional reporting by Noemie Olive and Chine Labbé in Paris;
Yara Bayoumy in Washington; Editing by Richard Lough and David