France Finds Potential Terror Accomplice in Handcuffs in Bulgaria
Prosecutor: Warrant says Fritz-Joly Joachim part of terrorist group.
By DRAGANA JOVANOVIC and BRIAN ROSS
January 13, 2015, 12:32 PM
• 5 min read
-- A French national arrested in Bulgaria while trying to slip into Turkey is linked to the massacre of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, and is expected to be extradited back to France, according to a local prosecutor.
Fritz-Joly Joachim, 28, was nabbed by Bulgarian authorities in the early morning on New Year's Day on a European arrest warrant for allegedly kidnapping his three-year-old son and trying to take him eventually into Syria, said Darina Slavova, a prosecutor in the southern Bulgarian city of Haskovo. But Slavova told ABC News today that Bulgarian authorities received another European arrest warrant Monday alleging Joachim was part of a "terrorist criminal group" and that he had been in contact with Cherif Kouachi, one of the Charlie Hebdo shooters, prior to his attempted escape to Syria.
The warrant, Slavova said, did not say how exactly Joachim and Kouachi were in contact.
According to the original arrest warrant, Joachim, who is of Haitian origin, converted to Islam 15 years ago, but became radicalized two years ago. He lives in the Bobigny suburb of Paris. Slavova said she expects Joachim to be extradited to France to face charges.
Monday French officials said they were hunting potential accomplices of brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who last week killed 12 people in an attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and of Amedy Coulibaly, who killed five people and held many more hostage in a kosher supermarket. All three gunmen were killed by police Friday.
Turkish officials said Monday that another individual wanted by French authorities, Coulibaly's romantic partner Hayat Boumeddiene, had slipped into Turkey before the attacks and has since disappeared into Syria.
The news of Joachim's arreset comes as American authorities are putting in place a series of urgent security steps designed to stop what they fear could be another wave of attempted airplane bombings on the heels of the Paris attacks.
The security order, issued last week but revealed publicly in recent days, also comes in the wake of a step-by-step bomb-making guide published by al Qaeda designed to get a bomb on board a plane.
"This group, AQAP, is absolutely determined... to try to [carry] out an attack on a U.S.-bound airplane," said Matt Olsen, former head of the National Counterterrorism Center and ABC News consultant, referring to al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate.
U.S. and French officials have said one or both of the Kouachi brothers had received terror training from AQAP prior to their assault in Paris.