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As Father Jacques Hamel led a small gathering for mass on Tuesday, Abdel Malik Petitjean stormed the Église St Étienne in the northern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray alongside accomplice Adel Kermiche, holding five people hostage before forcing the church's priest to kneel before them.
The pair were armed with knives, as well as fake weapons.
Few details have yet to surface on Petitjean's radicalization, a judicial source told Reuters, but authorities have detained three people close to him who may provide more information about Petitjean's path to committing the attack against France's most popular religion, Catholicism. British media outlets reported Thursday that Petitjean had attempted to reach Syria but failed, resulting in his placement on the French watchlist.
He moved to the southeastern town of Aix-les-Bains where his mother lives.His radicalization was so severe that his family had alerted authorities so as to prevent him attempting to reach Syria. Petitjean, a 19-year-old French national of Algerian origin born in November 1996, was known to French authorities and they had earmarked him as radicalized and a potential Islamist militant, opening a special file on him as recently as June 29.Security services were searching for him the week prior to the attack, police sources told Reuters, after a foreign intelligence service alerted the French to his plans to conduct an assault.August 2, 2016, du Rouvray: les échanges glaçants des terroristes avant l’attaque,” Four days before the attack, Petitjean posted a video on Telegram in which he called for Muslims to strike at France and, addressing French president François Hollande, asserted that “we are going to destroy your country and raise our banner.” The same day, a foreign intelligence organization allegedly alerted French authorities about the video, providing a photo of an unidentified man––Petitjean––and a warning that he “could be ready to participate in an attack on national territory.”August 2, 2016, Alastair Jamieson and Nancy Ing, “France Church Attack: Abdel-Malik Petitjean Was Known Potential Radical,” NBC News, July 28, 2016, July 28, 2016, Alastair Jamieson and Nancy Ing, “France Church Attack: Abdel-Malik Petitjean Was Known Potential Radical,” NBC News, July 28, 2016,