Mastermind behind Charlie Hebdo killings may still be alive

Isis strategist Boubaker el-Hakim could have survived US drone strike, says Iraqi military

Boubaker el-Hakim is among the prime suspects believed to have been involved in planning the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo in which 17 people were killed. Photograph: Courtesy SFR News

Boubaker el-Hakim is among the prime suspects believed to have been involved in planning the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo in which 17 people were killed. Photograph: Courtesy SFR News

 

An Islamic State militant linked to the deadly 2015 attack on French weekly Charlie Hebdo could be still be alive, the Iraqi military said on Saturday.

Boubaker el-Hakim was reported by American defence officials to have been killed in November, in a US drone strike in Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.

Iraqi intelligence supplied information to the Syrian airforce to carry out a series of strikes on Islamic State headquarters and hideouts in Syria, including one believed to belong to el-Hakim, an Iraqi military statement said.

Aircraft from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s airforce targeted several locations in Raqqa and Albu Kamal, near the Iraqi border, said the statement, without indicating the location of el-Hakim’s headquarters or the date of the raids.

An Iraqi military spokesman said el-Hakim’s headquarters were destroyed, but it was not clear if he was killed.

Foreign backers

In 2015 Iraq and Syria established a joint committee with Russia and Iran, President Assad’s main foreign backers, to share intelligence about Islamic State.

El-Hakim was believed to have been involved in planning the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, a weekly known for its satirical covers ridiculing political and religious leaders.

Two Islamist militants broke into an editorial meeting of the weekly, raking it with bullets, killing 17 people. Another militant later killed a policewoman and took hostages at a supermarket, killing four before police shot him dead.

Islamic State declared a “caliphate” spanning parts of Iraq and Syria after it captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in mid-2014.

The hardline Sunni group has since lost most cities it captured in Iraq and its fighters are now surrounded in parts of Mosul by US-backed Iraqi government forces.

A US-backed offensive is also under way to capture Raqqa, involving a Syrian Kurdish-Arab militia alliance.