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.
That the French security services had prior knowledge of Petitjean’s radicalized view of the world, and potential plans to carry out an attack in the country, shows the scale of the intelligence failure in preventing the murder of Hamel, says Dr. Alan Mendoza, executive director of London-based think-tank The Henry Jackson Society.
“Unfortunately, this incident highlights how intelligence failures can make all the difference in whether terrorists succeed or fail in their murderous intentions. Had proper monitoring and intelligence analysis taken place, neither of the two culprits would have been able to conduct their attack. It is important that we learn lessons from this.”
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