French Woman Believed To Be Gunmen’s Associate Is Still At Large

January 10, 2015

A manhunt continues in France for a woman officials believe was part of the attacks that rocked Paris this week.

French officials released a photo of Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, who they say was involved in the killing of a policewoman in Paris on Thursday, and who possibly was involved in the hostage standoff in a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris earlier today. That siege resulted in the killing of four hostages and the death of Amedy Coulibaly, 32, who is thought to be Boumeddiene’s husband or boyfriend.

U.S. officials say both Coulibaly and Boumeddiene were known to American intelligence authorities. They had been placed in the TIDE database of known or suspected terrorists. It is unclear whether Boumeddiene was also on the smaller no-fly list, which would have prevented her from traveling to the United States. U.S. officials say Coulibaly and Said and Cherif Kouachi, the two brothers thought to be behind the killing of 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, were all on the no-fly list.

The Kouachi brothers died in a fiery standoff with French police in a printing factory about 8 miles from Charles de Gaulle airport. No hostages died in that incident.

U.S. officials say Boumeddiene garnered the interest of French and American intelligence officials because of her association with Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers, which they believe has been longstanding. All four were connected to a 2010 plot to break an Algerian jihadi out of prison, they say.

Witnesses to the brothers’ attacks across Paris — which include not just the murders at the magazine, but numerous carjackings and a gas station robbery — say the Kouachis told them they had been sent by al-Qaida’s arm in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Cherif Kouachi told a French television station that the brothers had been sent by AQAP to defend the Prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo magazine had printed cartoons that some Muslims felt mocked the prophet.

Officials are still trying to determine if the attack actually was ordered by al-Qaida’s arm in Yemen, or if the group simply inspired it in a more general way. Said Kouachi is known to have trained with AQAP in Yemen in 2011, but it is less clear whether his brother had gone too.

Cherif Kouachi told the French journalist that they were inspired and supported by American-born radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed along with his teenage son in a U.S. drone attack in September 2011. Said Kouachi is thought to have been in Yemen just prior to that. It is unclear what the men had been doing since that time.

So far, U.S. officials say they haven’t seen anything that suggests that either Kouachi brother had direct contacts with Awlaki. The connection might have been just on the Internet — where Awlaki’s lectures remain — rather than one-on-one.

There also have been reports that the brothers or Coulibaly might have traveled to Syria to get battlefield experience and training, but American officials say nothing they have found so far that suggests that happened.

U.S. officials say that they have yet to find a domestic connection to the Kouachis, Couibaly and Boumeddiene, but that there still are concerns of an unconnected copycat attack here.

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