The Players in the French Terror Plot
The Kouachis and Al Qaeda, Coulibaly and ISIS, and others on the run.
— -- Since the deaths of 17 people in Paris last week, investigators have been trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle of clues, pointing to a potentially complex conspiracy behind the dual terror attacks.
The list of players continues to grow, but here are some key individuals allegedly involved:
Cherif and Said Kouachi
The tragedy of the Paris massacres started last Wednesday when Cherif and Said Kouachi stormed the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and murdered 12 people, including a policeman executed on the street nearby.
The French brothers had spent time in Yemen and, before they were killed by police Friday, told a local TV station they were working on behalf of a Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which financed the operation. Overnight, AQAP released a new video in which one of its officials confirmed the brothers were carrying out an attack the terror group had directed.
A day after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Amedy Coulibaly murdered a French police woman. The day after that, he took several people hostage in a kosher supermarket in Paris, killing four in the process before being gunned down himself by police.
Coulibaly knew the Kouachis from years before and he and Cherif even stood trial together for a failed attempt to free a convicted terrorist from a French prison. In a video he made before his death, Coulibaly claimed his attack was “synchronized” with the Kouachis’.
When the Cherif Kouachi was speaking to the local French television station hours before his death, he said that he was financed by a high-profile al Qaeda figure, Anwar al-Awlaki.
Al-Awlaki was an American citizen-turned-radical al Qaeda cleric for the Yemen affiliate of al Qaeda AQAP. He was one of al Qaeda’s top recruiters and was believed to have played some role in several plots targeting the U.S. The CIA caught up to al-Awlaki in September 2011, however, and killed him with a drone strike in Yemen.
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Like the Kouachis, Coulibaly provided some clues as to why he was taking part in his terror plot when he spoke to a local French television station. Coulibaly told journalists he was a member of ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It was a curious admission, since ISIS and al Qaeda, the terror group for which the Kouachis were supposedly working, are believed to be bitter rivals in the Middle East.
The week before the carnage in Paris, Coulibaly’s common law wife Hayat Boumeddiene appeared in Istanbul, having come in from Spain. The day her romantic partner killed a police officer, Boumeddiene slipped into Syria and hasn’t been heard from since. Paris police originally wanted her in connection to the police officer’s murder, and she’s still one of Europe’s most wanted women.
In the days after the attack, French authorities began hunting potential accomplices linked to the Kouachis or Coulibaly. In Bulgaria, they found one alleged member of a “terrorist criminal group” who had been in recent contact with Cherif Kouachi: Fritz-Joly Joachim.
Joachim had already been arrested by Bulgarian authorities on Jan. 1 for allegedly kidnapping his son and trying to eventually take him into Syria. France is seeking Joachim’s extradition to learn more about what role, if any, he played leading up to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Unidentified Additional Suspects
In addition to the shooters, French authorities are seeking several other people they suspect may have “enabled” the Kouachis or Coulibaly. There could be as many as six others, according to The Associated Press.
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