Teen released, 2 still in custody for French church attack


PARIS (AP) — A teenager detained following the gruesome killing of an 85-year-old priest by a pair of jihadi attackers in northwest France was released Saturday, a French official said.

An official with the Paris prosecutor’s office said investigators questioning the 16-year-old found evidence of regular visits to jihadi sites and of “incitement to terrorism,” but that the minor’s case had been handed over to prosecutors in the nearby city of Rouen who cover the region. She spoke on condition of anonymity as she was not allowed to be named publicly.

Judicial authorities in Rouen did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

A Syrian refugee and a cousin of one of the two attackers remain in custody following the July 26 attack in the French town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray which claimed the life of Rev. Jacques Hamel as he celebrated morning Mass. The violence sent shockwaves around France and deeply touched many among the nation’s 5 million Muslims.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, as well as the July 14 truck attack in Nice, where 84 people were killed by a man who plowed a truck down a seaside promenade. France has seen rising jihadi violence in the past 18 months, with attacks against journalists, Jews, police and partygoers.

The deadliest violence struck Paris on Nov. 13, when Muslim fanatics targeted Paris’ Bataclan concert hall, restaurants and a stadium, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds more.

In a separate development, two men suspected of connections to the Paris attacks were extradited Friday from Austria to France. The men, identified by Austrian authorities as a 35-year-old from Pakistan and a 29-year-old from Algeria, are believed to have come to Europe last year posing as refugees. French authorities have said the men were handed preliminary charges of “criminal terrorist association.”

In yet another development, the official with the Paris prosecutor’s office said that an unnamed man detained in the wake of the Nice truck attack would be sent to Paris on Monday, a step toward preliminary charges.

The man is suspected of being the person who posed for a selfie with the driver Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel in the cab of the vehicle used in the attack, she said.

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Elaine Ganley in Paris and George Jahn in Vienna, Austria, contributed to this report.

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