France hunts for accomplices to three dead Islamic attackers
 

Manhunt in France: ‘The threat is still present’

France hunts for accomplices to three dead Islamic attackers, mobilizes 10,000 troops to protect sensitive sites


 
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Security in France last week. (AP Photo)

PARIS — France ordered 10,000 troops into the streets Monday to protect sensitive sites — half of them to guard Jewish schools — as it hunted for accomplices to the Islamic militants who left 17 people dead as they terrorized the nation.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the search is urgent because “the threat is still present” after the attacks that began Wednesday with a massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and ended when three attackers were killed Friday in two nearly simultaneous clashes with security forces around Paris.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the deployment will be fully in place by Tuesday and will focus on the most sensitive locations.

By midday Monday, Paris’ Marais — one of the country’s oldest Jewish neighbourhoods as well as a major tourist site — was filled with police and soldiers. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also said 4,700 security forces would be assigned to protect France’s 717 Jewish schools.

“The work on these attacks, on these terrorist and barbaric acts continues … because we consider that there are most probably some possible accomplices,” Valls told BFM television.

Related reading: 10 essential reads on the Paris shootings

It was not clear exactly how many accomplices French forces were hunting for in addition to Hayat Boumeddiene, the widow of Amedy Coulibaly, the Islamic State group attacker who killed four hostages Friday at a kosher grocery in Paris before being killed by security forces.

But several others possible suspects appeared on their radar: French police have said the Charlie Hebdo attacks that left 12 dead were carried out by three people, but only two of those attackers have been found.

In addition, video emerged Sunday of Coulibaly explaining how the attacks in Paris would unfold. French police want to find the person or persons who shot and posted the video, which was edited after the attacks that ended with Coulibaly being killed.

Boumeddiene herself was seen travelling through Turkey with a male companion before reportedly arriving in Syria with him on Jan. 8 — the day after the Charlie Hebdo attack and the same day Coulibaly began his murderous spree by shooting dead a Paris policewoman.

Related reading: The truth about Charlie Hebdo 

Security camera video footage shown Monday by Turkey’s Haberturk Television network showed Boumeddiene arriving at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport on Jan. 2 — five days before the first terror attack in Paris. A high ranking Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the woman on the video was Boumeddiene.

Turkish intelligence tracked Boumeddiene from her arrival.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu Agency that Boumeddiene stayed at a hotel in Istanbul with another person before crossing into Syria on Thursday.

She and her travelling companion, a 23-year-old man, toured Istanbul, then left Jan. 4 for a town near the Turkish border, according to a Turkish intelligence official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Her last phone signal was on Jan. 8 from the border town of Akcakale, where she crossed over apparently into Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria, the official said. Their Jan. 9 return plane tickets to Madrid went unused.

Survivors say the Charlie Hebdo attackers, two brothers from Paris, claimed they were being supported by al-Qaida in Yemen, the group the U.S. considers the most dangerous offshoot of that network. In his video and in comments to French news media before he died, Coulibaly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, which has taken over large sections of Iraq and Syria.

Ties among the three attackers date back to at least 2005, when Coulibaly and Charlie Hebdo attacker Cherif Kouachi, 32, were jailed together. It later emerged that Cherif’s older brother, 34-year-old Said, the other Charlie Hebdo gunman, fought with or was trained by al-Qaida in Yemen.

Cherif Kouachi was also convicted in 2008 along with several others of belonging to a network that sent jihadis to fight American forces in Iraq.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday visited the Paris kosher grocery where four of the hostages were killed, and volunteers recited prayers over the bodies of some victims as they were prepared for burial by the Jewish Burial Society in Paris.


 

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