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Both attackers had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), stating their motives during the attack and in a video recorded beforehand that was posted by the ISIS Amaq news agency, which called the pair its "soldiers."Kermiche, a 19-year-old who grew up on an estate in the town, had attempted to enter Syria twice in 2015.
Authorities released him from prison in March and he was under surveillance, forced to wear an electronic tag and on probation at the time of the attack.
While it remained unclear at the time whether Petitjean and Kermiche received any direct instructions or support from ISIS, an audio file was later released through Telegram in which the speaker, believed by authorities to be Kassim, praised Kermiche and Petitjean for their actions.
Abdel Malik Petitjean, 19, one of two men who stormed into a church in the northern French town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during morning mass and cut the throat of an 84-year-old priest at the altar.
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.
Alastair Jamieson and Nancy Ing, “France Church Attack: Abdel-Malik Petitjean Was Known Potential Radical,” NBC News, July 28, 2016, Nabil Petitjean: 5 Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, July 28, 2016, Nabil Petitjean: 5 Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, July 28, 2016, church attack: ‘Gentle’ boy who became a killer,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, Jamie Schram and Yaron Steinbuch, “France was warned about terrorist who killed priest in church attack,” Alastair Jamieson and Nancy Ing, “France Church Attack: Abdel-Malik Petitjean Was Known Potential Radical,” NBC News, July 28, 2016, church attack: ‘Gentle’ boy who became a killer,” BBC News, July 28, 2016, It is unclear how he met Kermiche but he had told his family he was leaving their home on Monday to see a cousin in the northeastern city of Nancy, before he appeared in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray to carry out the attack.His mother told AFP that his last text message read: "Don't worry, everything is fine... Esposito is University Professor of Religion and International Affairs and Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.A past president of the Middle East Studies Association, he is Editor-in-Chief of the four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World and Editor of the Oxford Illustrated History of Islam.