Paris gunman’s girlfriend travelled to Syria

Authorities believe Hayat Boumeddiene (26) flew to Istanbul days before the attacks on her way to Syria

Ruadhan Mac Cormaic describes the mood in Paris after a dark, disorienting week that came to a brutal end last night with dramatic shootouts. Video: Reuters/Getty/DCOM


Hayat Boumeddiene (26), the suspected female accomplice of Islamists behind attacks in Paris, left France last week and travelled to Syria via Turkey, a source familiar with the situation said on Saturday.

French police are searching for Ms Boumeddiene, believed to be the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, the man who killed a police woman and four people at a Jewish supermarket on Friday.

A Turkish intelligence official said authorities believe Ms Boumeddiene came through Turkey days before the attacks.

The official said a woman by the same name of the common law wife of Coulibaly flew to Istanbul on January 2nd.

The official said the woman resembled a widely distributed photo of Hayat Boumeddiene. Turkish authorities believe she travelled to the Turkish city of Sanliurfa near the Syrian border on January 4th. The official said “she then disappeared”.

Meanwhile, French authorities have increased security measures following terrorist attacks over three days in Paris.

Coulibaly was at the centre of a hostage incident at a Jewish supermarket in the Porte de Vincennes area of Paris.

He died after being shot when police stormed the supermarket on Friday evening. Television footage showed the moment Coulibaly ran out of the kosher store firing and was taken down by a volley of bullets shot by French police.

He is said to have killed four people inside the outlet. He was identified as the killer of a policewoman in Paris on Thursday, an incident in which Ms Boumeddiene is also a suspect.

Brothers Cherif (32) and Said Kouachi (34), who killed 12 people at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, were shot dead by police on Friday evening after a separate tense stand-off on an industrial estate in Dammartin-en-Goële outside Paris.

The atrocity at the offices of the satirical title was the worst terrorist attack in France in more than half a century.

Speaking after an emergency security meeting in Paris on Saturday, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuvehas called for “extreme vigilance” after the attacks. He confirmed that the government was deploying hundreds of troops in addition to thousands of police and other security forces.

Prime minister Manuel Valls warned that France must “never lower our guard” after the series of attacks.

Frequent calls

Prosecutor Francois Molins said Coulibaly and Boumeddiene spoke with the Kouachi brothers “ 500 times” over the telephone during the sieges.

Extracts of Coulibaly ranting at hostages in the kosher store have been released by French media. His comments were apparently recorded after a telephone was left off the hook.

Coulibaly railed against the French state and mocked his hostages for paying taxes, RTL reported. He said: “They must stop attacking the Islamic State, stop unveiling our women, stop putting our brothers in prison for nothing at all.”

A journalist who called the warehouse where the Kouachi brothers took shelter before they were shot dead has said he spoke to Cherif Kouachi, who said: “We are just telling you we are the defenders of the prophet and that I, Cherif Kouachi, have been sent by al-Qaeda of Yemen and that I went over there and that Anwar Al Awlaki financed me.”

Global outpouring

The Charlie Hebdo killings prompted a global outpouring of outrage and revulsion, with tens of thousands of people turning out at rallies and vigils in support of press freedom under the slogan “Je Suis Charlie”. The National Union of Journalists held a ceremony remembering those killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack in Dublin on Saturday.

In a national television address on Friday night, French president François Hollande concluded an extraordinary day by solemnly appealing for national unity after what he called “a tragedy for the nation”.

He will join other national and foreign leaders at a “silent rally” in Paris on Sunday. Taoiseach Enda Kenny, German chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister David Cameron, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy and Matteo Renzi of Italy have said they will also attend.

Paris deputy mayor Patrick Klugman said the most important thing about the rally was “continuing living as a free democracy, protecting freedom of speech and fighting terror, which is a challenge for every European and world democracy.

“Tomorrow we expect maybe the largest demonstration ever in Paris and in France. From many points of view, this rally will be historical.”

Directed operations

A member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula gave a statement in to the Associated Press saying the group’s leadership “directed the operations and they have chosen their target carefully”.

The Kouachi brothers had holed themselves up in the printworks on Friday morning as police closed in on them after a huge two-day manhunt across northern France. Officials said the pair were acquaintances of Amedi Coulibaly, who is suspected of killing a policewoman in Montrouge in southern Paris on Thursday before taking hostages at the supermarket.

Gael Fabiano, of the UNSA police union, told The Irish Times Coulibaly walked into the shop firing a Kalashnikov. It was, Mr Hollande said, “an appalling anti-Semitic act”.

The hostage taken by the Kouachi brothers at the printworks survived uninjured. A second employee managed to hide from the two gunmen under a sink, escaping unharmed after being able to speak to police on the phone and describe the building’s layout.

When the raid began, the brothers ran from the building, shooting 50 rounds of ammunition. A local politician had earlier said they had told negotiators they wanted “to die as martyrs”.

Additional reporting: Agencies