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French Police Use DNA to Identify Second Church Attacker

A French soldier stands guard while preventing the access to the scene of an attack in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, July 26, 2016.

Police in France have formally identified the second man involved in the brutal church attack earlier this week that left a priest dead.

Nineteen year old Abdel Malik Petitjean was born in eastern France and became know to authorities after he attempted to travel to Syria. Police were able to identify him after his mother provided a DNA sample.

Petitjean and Adel Kermiche, also 19, stormed into the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray church in northern France during the morning mass Tuesday, slit the throat of an 86-year-old priest and took five more people hostage. The two were both eventually gunned down by police and one of the hostages is still in serious condition.

Kermiche had been awaiting trial on terror related charges, and was wearing an electronic bracelet at the time he carried out the attack.

The jihadist group Islamic State released a video showing the two men holding an IS banner and pledging allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On Wednesday, French President Francois Hollande met with religious leaders in an attempt to assuage fears and create interfaith solidarity after this latest in a string of terror attacks in France.

Many in the French Catholic community were still in shock after Tuesday's attack.

Mohammed Karabila, leader of the regional council of Muslim worship in the area, had just two questions following the attack: “How could a person wearing an electronic bracelet carry out an attack? Where were the police?”

Others in the Muslim community called for increased security at religious buildings, but cautioned against lumping the terrorists with the rest of France's Muslim community -- the largest in Europe.

Hooded police officers conduct a search in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, following an attack on a church that left a priest dead, July 26, 2016.
Hooded police officers conduct a search in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, following an attack on a church that left a priest dead, July 26, 2016.

"We deeply desire that our places of worship are the subject of greater (security) focus, a sustained focus," said Dalil Boubakeur, the head of France’s Muslim community.

He went on to express “deep grief” on behalf of French Muslims, and called the attack a “blasphemous sacrilege which goes against all the teachings of our religion.”

Pope Francis also condemned the attack on a Roman Catholic church. Through Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi, the pope said the attack is particularly difficult to understand "because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is announced."

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned against vilifying all Muslims after the attack, saying the goal of the terrorists is to "set the French people against each other, attack religion in order to start a war of religions."

The church is located about 104 kilometers north of Paris, where in November members of IS killed 130 people during coordinated attacks on the city.

Over the past 19 months, France has been the target of two other major terrorist attacks.

In January 2015, there were deadly assaults on the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and other public places around Paris, killing 17 people.

In the southern city of Nice, 84 people were killed on July 14 by a man who drove a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day while firing a handgun.