Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who died in a police assault in Paris on Friday after he took hostages at a kosher market on the eastern edge of the city, has a history of ties to crime and violence, according to reports in Reuters, the Guardian and French media outlets.
At least four people were killed at the kosher market, the Associated Press reported. Police said Coulibaly is also suspected of killing a Paris police officer on Thursday in the Montrouge area of the southern Parisian suburbs.
Police told the Associated Press that Coulibaly appeared to know Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who were named as suspects in the Wednesday attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead. Coulibaly threatened to kill his hostages if French authorities went after the two brothers, who were also holding a hostage in a printing plant northeast of Paris, the Associated Press reported.
The three men were all members of the same Paris jihadist cell that sent French fighters to Iraq a decade ago, a police source told Reuters. According to France's L'Obs, Coulibaly spent time with Cherif Kouachi when they were both in prison in Fleury-Mérogis between 2005 and 2006.
From the Guardian:
French media reported that Coulibaly had converted and become radicalised in prison. After an initial spell in prison for armed robbery, he was reported to have then started drug-dealing and served another sentence.
Coulibaly was sentenced in 2010 for his part in an effort to free Islamist militant Smain Ali Belkacem from jail, Reuters reported. The BBC noted that the two Kouachi brothers were also named in connection to the effort, but not charged because of lack of evidence.
Police also named a second suspect, a woman named Hayet Boumddiene, 26, as the gunman's accomplice in Thursday’s police shooting. Her whereabouts on Friday were unclear. Le Monde said that Boumddiene is Coulibaly’s partner.
Details about Coulibaly’s past are slowly emerging from French outlets. He was born in 1982 in the Paris suburb of Juvisy-sur-Orge, Le Monde reports. He grew up in Grigny south of Paris, the only boy in a family of 10 children. Since his late teens, he has been convicted several times for robbery and at least one time for drug trafficking, according to Liberation, a French newspaper.
According to Liberation, in a report prepared at one point for a Paris court, a psychiatric expert found Coulibaly had an “immature and psychopathic personality” and “poor powers of introspection.” His sense of morality was apparently “lacking,” and he had a wish to be “all powerful,” Liberation says the expert wrote.
In a 2009 interview for French newspaper Le Parisien, shortly after being released from jail, Coulibaly spoke of being excited to meet former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The president wanted to meet young people working in companies that make efforts to employ youth, Le Parisien reported, according to a reprint of the story published Friday in Le Monde. “I don't know what I would say. So I would begin with hello,” Coulibaly, then 27, told Le Parisien. Coulibaly, whose contract was ending soon, said he would tell the president about his professional life and his job.
Just 10 months afterwards, police searched Coulibaly's apartment and found 240 rounds of ammunition that could be used in Kalashnikov assault weapons, according to the Washington Post.
While it’s unclear if the Hyper Cacher, the kosher supermarket in Paris, was targeted because it is Jewish, the attack comes at a time of increasing concern over anti-Semitism in France and Europe. French President François Hollande called it "an appalling anti-Semitic act" in an address to the country on Friday.
Police shut down shops in the Jewish neighborhood of Marais in central Paris on Friday afternoon, USA Today reports. The Grand Synagogue of Paris, the largest Jewish house of worship in France, was also shut down.
On Twitter, Stephen Pollard, editor of Paris’ Jewish Chronicle, said he believed the hostage situation would send Jews fleeing France, and indicated in one tweet that he doubted it was a “fluke” that a Jewish store was targeted. “Every single French Jew I know has either left or is actively working out how to leave,” he tweeted.
This is a developing story and has been updated. Charlotte Alfred contributed to this report.
BEFORE YOU GO
01/09/2015 11:02 PM EST
Pro-Israel Rally In Amsterdam Scrapped
A pro-Israel rally set for January 11 in Amsterdam was "postponed because of the current situation in Paris," the organizers Holland4Israel announced. A new date for the event was not given.
01/09/2015 9:24 PM EST
Prosecutor Reveals Details From Sieges
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins revealed more details of the siege that killed the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, the Telegraph reports.
- The brothers had a loaded M82 rocket launcher, two Kalashnikov machine guns and two automatic pistols.
- Coulibaly had a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Skorpion military pistol.
"On the body of one of the terrorists, the demining teams also found a grenade that had been positioned as a trap," Molins said.
01/09/2015 9:16 PM EST
Police Continue Search For Possible Accomplice
French police continued to search for Hayat Boumeddiene, a 26-year-old woman who is suspected of being an accomplice in the Paris attacks, ITV reports.
As of early Saturday morning, Boumeddiene is believed to still be on the run. She is a suspect in the killing of female police officer in Paris on Thursday, and is thought to have been the girlfriend of Amedy Coulibaly, who was killed by police on Friday.
01/09/2015 9:09 PM EST
'Paris is Charlie' Projected On Paris' Arc De Triomphe
01/09/2015 8:23 PM EST
Hacktivist Group Anonymous Vows Revenge For Charlie Hebdo Attack
Hacktivist group Anonymous released a video in which it states that it will shut down jihadist websites to avenge the Charlie Hebdo attack.
01/09/2015 8:20 PM EST
Prosecutor: Brothers Extensively Coordinated With Other Suspects
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said that the Kouachi brothers had spoken on the phone more than 500 times with Amedy Coulibaly and his girlfriend Hayat Boumedienne, prior to the Paris attacks, the Guardian reports.
Both the Kouach brothers and Coulibaly were killed in dual sieges on Friday.
01/09/2015 8:15 PM EST
Memorial Outside Charlie Hebdo Offices In Paris
Pens, flowers, a flag, and a bottle of wine. Vive la France... pic.twitter.com/6MBaXWHkjd— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) January 10, 2015
01/09/2015 6:14 PM EST
Footage Of French Raid On Terror Suspects In Dammartin
France's National Gendarmerie released footage of its special forces raiding the printing house in Dammartin-en-Goele where the two Charlie Hebdo attack suspects were holding a person hostage.
The National Gendarmerie also released a picture of the hostage, with their face blurred, being led to safety after the raid. Both of the suspects were killed.
01/09/2015 5:44 PM EST
Yemen Launches Investigation Into Al Qaeda Link To France Attacks
Yemen's Spokesperson in Washington Mohammed Albasha writes on Twitter that Yemen has launched an investigation into possible connections between Al Qaeda's branch in the country, and the attacks in France.
01/09/2015 5:37 PM EST
Al Qaeda In Yemen's Statement On The Attacks
Al Qaeda's Yemen branch released an audio statement on the attacks in France, after a member of the group told the Associated Press they had "directed" the assault on Charlie Hebdo.
Soon after, the branch's senior cleric Sheikh Harith al-Nadhari issued a recording on the group's Twitter feed commenting on the "blessed raid on Paris." He denounced the "filthy" French and called them "the heads of infidelity who insult the prophets." He praised the "hero mujahedeen" who he said "taught them a lesson and the limits of freedom of speech."
Al-Nadhari stopped short of directly claiming responsibility for the attack, but added, "How can we not fight those who hurt our prophet, slandered our religion and fought the faithful."
Addressing the French, he said, "It better for you to stop striking Muslims so you can live in peace. But if you only wish for war, then rejoice, you will not enjoy peace as long as you wage war on God and his prophets and fight Muslims."
It was not immediately clear why al-Nadhari did not outright said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the attack. The member told the AP that the group as delaying its official declaration of responsibility for "security reasons."