The second jihadist involved in a French church attack had tried to travel to Syria, prosecutors said on Thursday as calls mounted for the prime minister and interior minister to resign after the latest terror attack.
The prosecutor’s office said that the second killer was 19-year-old Abdel Malik Petitjean, who was listed on France’s “Fiche S” of people posing a potential threat to national security in June after trying to reach Syria from Turkey.
Petitjean, whose face was disfigured after being gunned down by police, had been harder to identify than his accomplice Adel Kermiche, 19, and investigators confirmed his identity after a DNA match with his mother.
The two young jihadists were shown pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video sometime before they stormed a church in the northern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray Tuesday and slit the 86-year-old priest’s throat at the altar.
The attack came as the government was already facing a firestorm of criticism over alleged security failings after the Bastille Day truck massacre that left 84 dead two weeks ago.
A brief show of political unity at a mass attended by different faiths in Paris yesterday quickly dissolved as Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve faced fresh calls to resign.
“If the government is not responsible for the wave of terrorism, it is guilty of not having done everything to stop it,” said Laurent Wauqiez, the deputy leader of the right-wing Republicans party in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.
“Manuel Valls and Bernard Cazeneuve must go because they refuse to take vital measures to fight Islamism. We need a new government, determined to act”.
The French government has assured the country that everything possible is being done to protect citizens, while warning that more terror attacks are inevitable, after three major strikes and several smaller attacks in the past 18 months.
President Francois Hollande confirmed today the creation of a National Guard to be made up of reserve forces, after the government earlier urged “patriots” to sign up to become reservists.
Hollande said parliamentary consultations on the formation of the force would take place in September “so that this force can be created as fast as possible to protect the French”.
The government has faced tough questions as it emerged both church attackers were on the radar of intelligence services, and had tried to go to Syria.