Wife-Accomplice of Paris Kosher Store Attacker Could be in Syria

'Armed and dangerous' Hayat Boumeddiene wasn't in France during the attack, contrary to previous reports, police source says.

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Picture of Hayat Boumeddiene released by French police
Picture of Hayat Boumeddiene released by French police
Prefecture de Police de Paris

A French police source has revealed that the "armed and dangerous" wife of Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who murdered four Jewish shoppers at a kosher store on Friday, was not in France.

According to the Le Monde newspaper, the source claimed that 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, was not in France at the time of the killings.

Coulibaly shot dead a young policewoman on Thursday and then took the shoppers hostage Friday, and while police had suspected Boumeddiene may have had a role in her partner's violent acts, she was likely in Turkey then, the anonymous source said.

The source, who declined to be named, said investigators were checking whether she was now in Syria. He said a woman matching Boumedienne’s description took a flight on January 2 from Madrid to Istanbul. Turkey is a popular route for foreign fighters traveling to Syria, and the source added she is believed to have crossed into Syria on January 8, the same day a policewoman was shot dead by Coulibaly in Montrouge.

Meanwhile, More than 700,000 people on Saturday took to streets across France in tribute to the 17 people killed in three days of violence by Islamist extremists, the French interior minister said.

From Nice and Marseilles in the south to Besancon in the east and Lille in the north, people poured onto the streets to express their solidarity following Wednesday's attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead. The massacre was followed by the fatal shooting of a police officer on Thursday and the murder of four hostages during a siege at a Jewish supermarket on Friday.

"700,000 people have marched" in cities around France, Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters on the eve of a huge Paris rally planned due to be attended by a string of world leaders.  

Cazeneuve did not give a detailed breakdown of the figure, but according to an AFP tally of demonstrations many thousands turned out across the country.

In the southern city of Toulouse, police said around 80,000 people took part in a march, with the "enormous" procession stretching up to two kilometres (1.2 miles).  

"Live together, free, equal and in solidarity," read the banner behind which at least 30,000 people also marched in the western city of Nantes.

In Marseille, 45,000 people expressed similar sentiments with a rally banner that said "For democracy, equality, freedom, let's fight fascism".

Individual marchers held up placards with the words "Not Afraid!"

In Pau, a further 30,000 to 40,000 people staged a silent march with school pupils leading the way holding a banner emblazoned with the words: "We are all Charlie".  

"It's a great popular movement... it's beautiful and significant, infinitely precious," the southwestern city's mayor Francois Bayrou told AFP.

In Besancon, another 20,000 took to the streets, while in northern Orleans around 22,000 rallied, according to a police source.

In Nice, at least 23,000 demonstrators were counted, police sources said, in a demonstration which snaked for around a kilometre along the famous seafront Promenade des Anglais, ending at the war memorial where a wreath was laid in the presence of representatives of different faiths.

A further 22,000 people turned out in northern Lille and thousands more in several other towns and cities across France.

Outside France, several thousand people, including many Muslims, rallied in Milan with many carrying signs that said "I am Charlie" or "Not In My Name".

The rallies come ahead of a march expected to draw up to a million people on Sunday in which French President Francois Hollande will be joined by a host of world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Others due to participate include Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and US Attorney General Eric Holder.

The prime ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands will also attend along with the presidents of Mali, Niger and Ukraine.  

Hollande will also be joined by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, president of the European Union Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

"This will be an extraordinary demonstration... which must show the power and the dignity of the French people who are going to proclaim their love of freedom and tolerance," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.  

Ahead of that mass rally in Paris, hundreds of troops were on Saturday deployed around the city, which is already on the highest possible alert.  

Following a crisis meeting, the French government announced that all necessary measures would be taken to ensure the safety of those attending.    The three-day killing spree by three Islamic militants ended on Friday following a massive police operation.    All three gunmen died in final confrontations with police.

After Friday's dramatic events, Hollande warned grimly that the threats facing France were not over - comments followed by a chilling new threat from the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula group.  

AQAP top sharia official Harith al-Nadhari warned France to "stop your aggression against the Muslims" or face further attacks," in comments released by the SITE monitoring group.

'Appalling anti-Semitic act'

The three-day killing spree began Wednesday with an assault on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris that saw two brothers massacre 12 people including some of the country's best-known cartoonists and a day later, Coulibaly shot dead the policewoman.

The massive manhunt for the two Kouachi brothers developed into a car chase Friday and then a tense standoff as they took one person hostage in a printing firm northeast of Paris.

The small town of Dammartin-en-Goele was transformed into what looked like a war zone, with elite forces deploying snipers, helicopters and heavy-duty military equipment as they surrounded the pair.

With all eyes on the siege outside Paris, suddenly explosions and gunfire shook the City of Light itself as Coulibaly stormed a Jewish supermarket on the eastern fringes of the capital.

In what Hollande called an "appalling anti-Semitic act", Coulibaly took terrified shoppers hostage hours before the Jewish Sabbath, killing four.

As the sun set, the brothers in Dammartin-en-Goele charged out of the building with guns blazing in a desperate last stand, before being cut down.  

Within minutes, elite commando units moved in Paris against Coulibaly, who had threatened to execute his hostages unless the brothers were released.

He had just knelt for his evening prayer when the special forces struck. Explosions rocked the neighbourhood - one lighting up the shopfront in a fireball - and shooting erupted as the commandos burst in.

"It's war!" shouted a mother as she pulled her daughter away.

Up to five people - including a three-year-old boy - survived hidden inside a refrigerator for five hours, with police pinpointing their location using their mobile phones, prosecutors and relatives said.

In the printing firm, the brothers took the manager hostage, later releasing him after he helped Said with a neck wound, while a second man hid beneath a sink upstairs.

'Clear failings'

Leaders have urged the country to pull together in grief and determination, but questions are mounting over how the three men - Cherif and Said Kouachi, and Coulibaly - slipped through the security net after it emerged that all three were known to intelligence agencies.

As the drama reached its climax, links emerged showing the brothers and Coulibaly were close allies and had worked together.

All three had a radical past and were known to French intelligence.

Cherif Kouachi, 32, was a known jihadist who was convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters to Iraq.  

His brother Said, 34, was known to have travelled to Yemen in 2011, where he received weapons training from AQAP.

It also emerged that the brothers had been on a US terror watch list "for years".

Coulibaly, 32 - who met Cherif Kouachi in prison - was sentenced to five years in prison in 2013 for his role in a failed bid to break an Algerian Islamist, Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, out of jail.  

Boumeddiene and Cherif's girlfriend spoke "more than 500" times by phone in 2014, said Paris's chief prosecutor Francois Molins.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the carnage they left in their wake showed there had been "clear failings" in intelligence.

AFP contributed to this report.








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