French police are hunting for Cherif and Said Kouachi, the two brothers suspected of carrying out the massacre at the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 people died.
Said and Cherif Kouachi are considered “armed and dangerous”, a police bulletin says. Photos were also released of the two suspects, who are Algerian-origin French citizens resident in Paris.
Cherif Kouachi, 32, was jailed in 2008 and had long been known to police for militant Islamist activities, French media reported.
He also went by the name Abu Issen and was part of the “Buttes-Chaumont network” that helped send would-be jihadists to fight for al-Qaeda in Iraq after the US-UK invasion in 2003.
Cherif Kouachi had grown up in an orphanage in Rennes, north-west France, and had trained as a fitness coach before joining his brother in Paris, Liberation newspaper reports. In Paris he worked as a pizza delivery man.
In 2008, Cherif Kouachi was jailed for three years, but 18 months of the sentence was suspended, Liberation reports.
Koauchi brothers had allegedly frequented a mosque in the Stalingrad district of Paris, where they came under the influence of a radical imam called Farid Benyettou.
Farid Benyettou reportedly encouraged Said and Cherif Kouachi to study Islam at his home and at a Muslim centre in their neighborhood.
A key figure in the Buttes-Chaumont network was Boubaker al-Hakim, a militant linked to al-Qaeda resistance to US forces in Iraq, a French expert on Islamists says.
Jean-Pierre Filiu, an expert at Sciences-Po University in Paris, says a French court jailed Boubaker al-Hakim for seven years in 2008, at the same time as Cherif Kouachi, along with Farid Benyettou, who got six years. That action broke up the jihadist network they had created.
The experts says in ablog article that Boubaker al-Hakim had recruited militants to fight in Falluja, an Iraqi city that became an al-Qaeda stronghold in 2004.
Boubaker al-Hakim is also wanted in Tunisia over the murder of two Tunisian left-wing opposition politicians in 2013 – Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. Hakim claimed the murder in the name of the so-called Islamic State group, Jean-Pierre Filiu says.
In 2010 Cherif Kouachi was named in connection with a plot to spring another Islamist, Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, from jail.
Ait Ali Belkacem used to be in the outlawed Algerian Islamic Armed Group (GIA) and was jailed for life in 2002 for a Paris metro station bombing in 1995 which injured 30 people.
Said Kouachi, 34, was also named in the Belkacem plot, but the brothers were not prosecuted, for lack evidence.
Said Kouachi’s ID card was found in the brothers’ getaway car which they abandoned after the shooting, AFP news agency reports, citing police sources.
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