In what can only be described as a cruel irony, the Roman Catholic parish where Islamic terrorists slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel Tuesday had donated the land on which the local mosque is built.
On Tuesday morning, two terrorists associated with the Islamic State entered the parish church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray while 86-year-old Father Jacques Hamel was saying Mass. The assailants seized Father Hamel, made him kneel down and slit his throat on camera before taking the other members of the congregation as hostages. Both attackers were subsequently killed by police.
A block away, the Yahia mosque of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray was inaugurated in 2000, constructed on a plot of land donated by the Catholic parish where Tuesday’s attack took place.
Reports from France declare that the small Norman town is “known to be an anchor of the Jihadist network,” and the local “Salafist” mosque has been the spiritual home to several known Islamist radicals.
In November 2014, a year before the Paris and Saint-Denis jihadist attacks, this city of 30,000 souls had already made news as a hotspot of radical Islam.
At that time, the Directorate General of Internal Security (RPS) arrested several people from the area who were suspected of ties to the Islamic State and were allegedly preparing to travel to Syria.
Police arrested three young people in the nearby town of Saint-Pierre-les-Elbeuf, while a fourth, a 22-year-old identified only as “Jordan,” was not arrested because he had already escaped to Syria to join ISIS.
All four attended a mosque that newspapers at the time simply described as the “Salafist Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray Mosque.”
This jihadist micro-network, the first to be identified in the Normandy region, also included the notorious Islamist Maxime Hauchard, who joined the Islamic State in Syria in August 2013. Hauchard’s name appears on the black list of most wanted terrorists by the U.S. State Department.
Hauchard, who also frequented the mosque of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, appeared in a 2014 video of the beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig and 18 Syrian military captives.
Last November, the local prefect of Seine Maritime, Pierre-Henry Maccioni, described the situation regarding the presence of radicalized Muslim youth in Seine-Maritime. According to his report, police had identified 140 people “at risk” in the department, thirty of whom were under “special surveillance.”
One of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s attack in the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, 18-year-old Adel Kermiche, was in fact well known to counterterrorism services, particularly after an aborted trip to Syria. Intercepted in Turkey, the Algerian-born individual was subsequently imprisoned in France before being placed on house arrest, wearing an electronic bracelet.
Following the recent Nice attacks, French President François Hollande announced the extension of a state of emergency which had been invoked when 130 people were killed in a string of shootings and bombings in Paris last November.
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