Officials from Turkish intelligence had identified one of the two jihadists responsible for Tuesday’s brutal killing of a Roman Catholic priest, Abdel Malik Petitjean, as a serious attack risk and warned French authorities on June 29, according to reports.
As more and more details emerge regarding the French government’s foreknowledge of the threat that left Father Jacques Hamel dead in his church on Tuesday morning, the more the recent push to stop journalists from publishing the names and faces of jihadists sounds like an effort to keep people from connecting the dots on Islamic terror.
Though newspapers like Le Monde have said that their decision to stop printing information about jihadists is to avoid the “hero effect,” which could provoke further copycat attacks, other analysts suggest that the real motive may be to censor information that highlights the ineptitude of French counterterrorism forces and the connections between the attacks and rampant Muslim immigration.
This theory is backed up by recent efforts by the French government to move beyond the voluntary self-censorship of newspapers to legislation that would mandate censorship of biographical details of jihadists. This week, Juliette Méadel, the Secretary of State for victim support, announced that she has launched a working group that will propose the next steps on “rethink[ing] the ethics of the media” in their coverage of domestic terror attacks committed in the name of Islam.
We “must think of ways to provide information without necessarily delivering all the details of the identity or the biography of the terrorist,” Méadel said.
On Friday, French media revealed that Turkish intelligence had tipped off the French government as to the high risk posed by Abdel Malik Petitjean. Both of the jihadists behind Tuesday’s attack were, in fact, known to the French counterterrorism forces.
In a chilling video released by Islamic State media late Thursday, Petitjean urges fellow Muslims to wake up and strike France any way they can.
His accomplice, Adel Kermiche, sent even more explicit audio messages via telegram. “Get a knife, go to a church and slaughter. Cut off two or three heads, then it’s over,” Kermiche says in one of the recordings whose content was released by the French weekly L’Express.
The French department of Seine Maritime, where Tuesday’s attack took place, has been known to authorities as a hotbed of Islamic radicalization.
Last November, local prefect Pierre-Henry Maccioni described the situation regarding the presence of radicalized Muslim youth in the area.
According to his report, police had identified 140 high risk people in the department, thirty of whom were under “special surveillance.”
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