French police arrest 12 people in search for accomplices of Islamist killer Amedy Coulibaly

French life still revolves around last week’s attacks, writes Lara Marlowe

French president François Hollande (left) welcomes US secretary of state John Kerry prior to a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Friday. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

French president François Hollande (left) welcomes US secretary of state John Kerry prior to a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Friday. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

 

French police arrested 12 people, eight men and four women, overnight from Thursday to Friday, in the search for accomplices of the Islamist killer Amedy Coulibaly.

Coulibaly murdered a policewoman and four Jewish men on January 8th and 9th. French authorities initially thought his wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, might have helped him stage the attacks. But Ms Boumeddiene had left for Syria via Spain and Turkey on January 2nd.

Police are still searching for her black Mini Cooper, which was reportedly used to ferry weapons for Cherif and Said Kouachi and Coulibaly from Belgium. The Kouachis killed 12 people in the January 7th attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine.

The suspects may have provided logistical support, in particular weapons and a car, to Coulibaly. Someone edited a posthumous video and posted it on YouTube for Coulibaly. In the video, Coulibaly claims to have acted on behalf of Islamic State.

The arrests occurred in Chatenay-Malabry, Epinay-sur-Seine, Fleury-Merogis, Grigny and Montrouge – all immigrant banlieues around Paris. Fleury-Merogis is home to Europe’s largest prison, where Coulibaly met Cherif Kouachi in 2005.

Grigny is the town where Coulibaly grew up, and Montrouge is where he shot dead policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe.

Interrogations

Prime minister Manuel Valls said on Friday that there “seemed to be” no links between events in France and the raid against an extremist hideout in Belgium on Thursday night. “The link that exists is the will of terrorists to attack our values, our compatriots,” Mr Valls said.

Coulibaly and Boumeddiene are believed to have visited Spain shortly before the attacks, and Spanish authorities are looking for a third person who may have helped Boumeddiene reach Syria.

Meanwhile, Charlie Hebdo continued to bury its dead on Friday. Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, the magazine’s director and a cartoonist, in Pontoise. Charb’s friends made irreverent, bawdy jokes in the style of Charlie Hebdo. Because he always voted communist, mourners sang l’Internationale, the revolutionary hymn from the 1871 Paris commune, as his coffin was carried in. A jazz band played Amazing Grace.

“Je suis Charlie. Prove it!” the cartoonist Luz, who drew this week’s cover of Mohamed shedding a tear, challenged mourners and the magazine’s readers.

“Take up your pencils and papers, a scanner, a computer. Express yourselves.”

The cartoonist Honoré and proof-reader Mustapha Ourrad were buried in private ceremonies at Père Lachaise on Friday afternoon.

Wreaths

John KerryCharlie Hebdo

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who accompanied Mr Kerry to the crime scenes, said he had “apologised” for the fact that neither he nor President Barack Obama had attended the January 11th march led by President François Hollande and close to 50 heads of state and government.

Before his arrival, Mr Kerry said the purpose of his visit was “to share a hug with all of Paris” after last week’s attacks.

In the event, he hugged Hollande in the courtyard of the Élysée before dawn, saying, “We share the pain and the horror of everything you went through.”

National anthem

MarseillaiseYou’ve Got a Friend

Before leaving Paris, Mr Kerry met the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, for the second time this week. Mr Zarif was in Paris to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme with French officials.

Mr Hollande told foreign ambassadors at a new years’ wishes ceremony at the Élysée that Iran “has an important role to play” but “it must clarify its intentions and contribute to the solution of crises in the region.”

A nuclear agreement “would be a strong signal in favour of peace and security”.

“Terrorism is the greatest threat to peace and security,” Hollande said, appealing for “a common front” against this “enemy”.