The militants who terrorised France for three days

9th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

The men who terrorised France for three days had ties to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, and were well-known to French intelligence services.

Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi carried out the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine office Wednesday, killing 12, before fleeing the capital.

They holed up with a hostage at a small printing firm north of Paris on Friday before being killed by police commandos who stormed the building.

Amedy Coulibaly killed a policewoman in Paris Thursday, a day before taking several people hostage at a kosher supermarket in the east of the city.

Speaking from the store he told French television he "coordinated" his attacks with the Kouachi brothers.

He, too, was killed when police launched an assault on the shop to end the siege, in which four hostages died.

His wife Hayat Boumeddiene is still being sought by police.

Cherif Kouachi

The 32-year-old Frenchman born in Paris to Algerian parents and orphaned at a young age grew up in the east of the city not far from the site of this week's magazine attack.

His history with jihadist networks dates back over a decade to his days with the so-called Buttes Chaumont network, named after a park in the 19th arrondissement of Paris where its members lived.

The group of young, radical Muslims helped arrange people's journeys to Iraq to join Al-Qaeda's fight US forces.

The younger Kouachi was 22 when the network was broken up by French police. He was arrested just as he was about to fly to Syria in 2005, from where he was due to travel on to fight in Iraq.

His lawyer at the time, Vincent Ollivier, said this week he was not particularly religious.

"He was a fairly typical, he smoked, drank and chased girls," said Ollivier.

At his trial in 2008, Kouachi said he was spurred to act by the abuse of detainees by US troops at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, but was relieved he did not have to go through with the trip.

He told the court he was working at a supermarket and his main interest was rap music, not jihad, but was nonetheless sentenced to three years in prison, half of which were suspended.

In prison he met Amedy Coulibaly and the pair came under the spell of renowned jihadist Djamel Beghal, who served 10 years for trying to break an Algerian Islamist, Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, out of jail.

Kouachi was investigated in the prison break-out attempt but the case was later dropped.

Speaking by phone to French TV station BFM during the hostage crisis on Friday, Cherif Kouachi said he travelled to Yemen in 2011 for training -- a trip financed by American-Yemeni radical Anwar al-Awlaki who was killed in Yemen by an American drone strike in September that year.

Kouachi also knew Boubaker al-Hakim, a Franco-Tunisian fellow member of the Buttes Chaumount network, who later joined Islamic State and who claims to have killed two Tunisian politicians, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, in 2013.

Said Kouachi

Cherif's 34-year-old brother was known by French intelligence to have travelled to Yemen in 2011, where he received weapons training from a local Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Said first visited Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2009 and spent time at Al-Iman University, which was founded by fundamentalist cleric Abdel Majid al-Zindani.

"He was disciplined, calm and discreet," said one former friend in Yemen.

Another friend said Said had helped defend another school in northern Yemen against an attack by Shia militants in 2013.

Both he and Cherif were on a US database of terror suspects and no-fly list.

Amedy Coulibaly

Couibaly was born in Essonne, south of Paris.

He worked on and off at a Coca-Cola factory between 2008 and 2010.

The 32-year-old petty criminal, who served time for robbery and drug-related charges, is believed to have converted to radical Islam in prison.

He too was involved in the attempt to free Belkacem.

He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2013 for his role in the attempted escape, after 240 rounds of Kalashnikov ammunition were found at his home, but he was a free man again by May 2014.

It was while in prison that Coulibaly met Cherif Kouachi and Djamel Beghal.

Like Cherif "he seemed to have a certain fascination for Djamel Beghal," prison documents said.

Hayat Boumeddiene

Boumeddiene, 26, married Coulibaly in a religious ceremony, but they have not had the civil wedding required to make it official in France.

Her mugshot was released by police along with that of Coulibaly in connection with Thursday's shooting of the policewoman. Both were described as "armed and dangerous".

She is still wanted by police.

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© 2015 AFP

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