Hayat Boumeddiene: French police hunt for terror attacks accomplice
French police are hunting for any accomplices of the gunmen who killed 17 people in two days of terror attacks.
One key figure is Hayat Boumeddiene, Amedy Coulibaly’s girlfriend. He was killed when police stormed HyperCacher supermarket in Paris on January 9.
Hayat Boumeddiene was said to be with Amedy Coulibaly when a female police officer was killed and is described as “armed and dangerous”.
Cherif and Said Kouachi, the two gunmen who carried out Wednesday’s deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine, were killed by police on January 9.
President Francois Hollande praised the police but also warned of further threats.
He thanked the security services for their “bravery and efficiency”, saying the week’s violence was “a tragedy for the nation”.
Francois Molins, the chief prosecutor in France, said authorities were urgently focusing on Hayat Boumeddiene.
French newspaper Le Monde published a series of photos said to show Amedy Coulibaly with Hayat Boumeddiene in 2010. In one, the 26-year-old woman is pictured pointing a crossbow at the camera while wearing a full-face veil, which is banned in France.
Francois Molins said the investigation would “focus on determining who their accomplices were, how these criminal actions were financed, and all the instruction and help they may have benefited from whether in France, from overseas”.
He said 16 people had been detained for questioning, including the wife of one of the Kouachi brothers and other members of their family.
French government ministers are meeting on Saturday morning to plan their next steps.
A number of world leaders have called Francois Hollande to express support.
The first siege on January 9 – in Dammartin-en-Goele, 22 miles north of Paris – involved the Kouachi brothers who had attacked the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine on January 7.
Cherif and Said Kouachi were shot dead as they came out of a warehouse building firing at police. Two officers were injured.
One hostage had earlier been released and a second employee, who was hiding in the building’s cafeteria, was freed by police after the shooting ended.
Police shortly afterwards launched an assault on HyperCacher supermarket in Paris, killing Amedy Coulibaly and rescuing 15 hostages. They found the bodies of four hostages believed to have been killed before the assault.
Officials have said they were aware of Amedy Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers. Said Kouachi was known to have travelled to Yemen in 2011.
Said and Cherif Kouachi are understood to have been on UK and US watch-lists.
While holed up in the warehouse north of Paris, Cherif Kouachi phoned a French TV news network and told them he was acting on behalf of the Yemen branch of al-Qaeda (AQAP).
The extremist group released an audio message late on January 9 praising the attacks but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
AQAP senior leader Sheikh Harith al-Nadhari said “some in France have misbehaved with the prophets of God,” adding that “God’s faithful soldiers” had taught them “the limits of freedom of speech”.
Earlier on Friday, a man claiming to be Amedy Coulibaly told French TV station BFMTV that he was a member of the Islamic State militant group, and that he had “co-ordinated” his attack with the Kouachi brothers.
Francois Molins confirmed that Amedy Coulibaly knew one of the brothers and their respective partners had spoken on the phone more than 500 times.
During Friday’s siege, Amedy Coulibaly had threatened to kill his captives if police attempted to capture the brothers, he added.
PM Manuel Valls admitted there had been a “clear failing” in French intelligence.
“If 17 people die, this means mistakes have been made,” he said, including those killed in attacks on January 7 and 8 in the toll.
The violence started on January 7 when the Kouachi brothers killed 12 people and injured 11 in an attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
The unprecedented attack shocked France and there has been an outpouring of sympathy and solidarity worldwide.
The French ministers’ meeting on Saturday will make preparations for a huge unity rally due to take place in the heart of Paris on January 11.
Among those attending will be UK PM David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy.
President Barack Obama said he had directed his intelligence agencies to help France deal with any further threats.
Meanwhile, the US state department has updated its travel guidance, warning Americans travelling abroad to maintain a high level of vigilance.
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