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Those who knew Petitjean, who have spoken so far, have said he showed no signs of becoming radicalized. It's incredible," he said."All the believers are shocked because he was known for his kindness, his calm. Friends of Kermiche, Petitjean's associate, say that he had transformed from a videogame-loving geek to a young man "brainwashed" by ISIS, saying openly that he supported the radical group.Djamel Tazghat, head of a local mosque in the southeastern town of Aix-les-Bains where Petitjean lived, told AFP news agency: "I liked him a lot. Details of Petitjean's youth and transformation into an ISIS-inspired murderer are yet to surface.I love you."Days later, Petitjean would appear in an ISIS video released by Amaq after the attack but recorded before, posing with an ISIS sign and holding hands with Kermiche while both declared their support for Baghdadi's radical Islamist group.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.
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.
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.
Abdel Malik Petitjean was one of two assailants to storm a church in the French town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray on July 26, 2016, killing the priest, Jacques Hamel, and taking hostage the four others in attendance.
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