French court charges man over priest killing | News | DW | 13.08.2016
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French court charges man over priest killing

A court in France has charged a man who allegedly exchanged text messages with the two Islamists who killed a Catholic priest in Normandy last month. The so-called "Islamic State" group claimed links to the attackers.

The 21-year-old man from the southwestern city of Toulouse was arrested last week. He was the second person to be held in connection with the killing of Jacques Hamel, the 85-year-old Normandy church priest.

Citing a source, the AFP news agency said the man was charged with "criminal association in connection with terrorism."

Just before the July 26 attack, in which the two assailants slit the priest's throat, injured another person and took five people hostage before they were killed by police, the Toulouse man had traveled to the Rouen region in northern France, where he met with Hamel's killers, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean.

Prior to his visit, the man had exchanged messages with the killers via the encrypted Telegram app.

The suspect, who was unemployed, claimed he was radicalized quickly, but investigators believe he was mentally unstable, the AFP source claims.

He told investigators he had no indication of a plot to attack the church in the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray town.

Responsibility for the attack - the first jihadist assault on a church on French soil by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) - was claimed via Amaq, the mouthpiece agency of IS, which in recent years has become notorious for its brutality in Syria and Iraq.

The attack came less than two weeks after a Tunisian drove a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 85 people and injuring more than 300.

shs/rc (AFP, dpa, AP)

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