Paris terror attacks investigation points to international conspiracy
The investigation into last week’s terror attacks in and around Paris has unearthed hints of foreign militant involvement in planning, financing and arming the French-born gunmen who killed 17 people in the deadliest attack on the country in decades.
Reports by French security officials and international media have combined to suggest a wide-ranging and long-running international conspiracy behind the terror spree that began with an attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and later widened to include a policewoman and four shoppers at a kosher market.
Here is what has been reported so far from the investigation and by witnesses interviewed by police and the media:
-- Said and Cherif Kouachi carried out the attack on the magazine shortly before noon Jan. 7 after forcing a cartoonist arriving for a staff meeting to open the ground-floor entrance with her security key card. The brothers -- hooded, clad in black and carrying assault rifles -- proceeded to the editor’s office and methodically shot and killed editor Stephane Charbonnier, his police bodyguard and seven staffers. A visitor to the office, a maintenance man and a police guard at the entrance were also killed.
-- Said Kouachi, 34, had traveled to Yemen in 2011 for weapons training by militants of the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula affiliate, or AQAP. Cherif Kouachi, 32, had been radicalized in prison while serving time for a 2008 conviction on terrorism-related charges for recruiting fighters for the insurgency against U.S. forces in Iraq. The younger Kouachi met the third gunman involved in last week’s terror spree, Amedy Coulibaly, while in jail after his initial arrest in the recruitment case in 2005, the Associated Press reported.
-- The three gunmen slain in police operations on Friday were known to international security monitors and were all on the U.S. and British no-fly lists that bar air travel by suspected terrorists. The Kouachi brothers told bystanders at the magazine attack that they were aligned with AQAP and Coulibaly can be seen pledging allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group in a video that surfaced on the Internet after his death.
-- Said Kouachi returned from Yemen in 2011 with $20,000 provided by AQAP to help finance the attacks carried out last week, CBS News reported Tuesday. French police union spokesman Christophe Crepin told journalists in Paris that an international hunt is on for several suspects in the funding of the operations.
-- Coulibaly, 32, shot and killed a policewoman in the Montrouge area of Paris a day after the magazine attack and set off a car bomb in Villejuif in an attempt to divert security forces searching for the Kouachi brothers, the AP said it was told by a French police source.
-- The brothers and Coulibaly belonged to a terror cell that consisted of eight to 10 members, including Coulibaly’s companion, 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene. She and at least five other suspected accomplices may still be at large, police told the AP.
-- Turkish authorities have disclosed that Boumeddiene appears to have traveled to Istanbul on Jan. 1 and crossed into Syria ahead of the terrorist strikes. Police were searching around Paris on Tuesday for a Mini Cooper registered to Boumeddiene.
-- A Frenchman of Haitian origin, Fritz Jolie Joaquin, was taken into custody in Bulgaria on Jan. 1 as he attempted to cross into Turkey at the Kapitan Andreevo border crossing, a prosecutor in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, reported Monday. European authorities issued an arrest warrant for Joaquin, 28, on Monday in connection with reports he kidnapped his 3-year-old son and was intending to travel to Syria. Police have said they believe Joaquin is a relative of the Kouachi brothers.
-- In apparent response to reports that the gunmen involved in last week’s attacks were radicalized while in French custody, Prime Minister Manuel Valls called Tuesday for intensified surveillance of imprisoned radicals.
-- Valls also reported that the high-powered weapons used in the slayings last week had been brought in from abroad, although he did not say from what country or bankrolling organization.
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