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Who Carried Out The Paris Attacks?

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

At least three assailants are alleged to have carried out the two separate attacks in and around Paris this week, and French intelligence has begun to draw strong links among them as well as to al-Qaida and its affiliates and offshoots in the Middle East.

The three suspects are now dead by police gunfire. Another woman, identified by French authorities as 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of one of the three, is still being sought.

Investigators in France initially said they believed Boumeddiene had taken part in one of the attacks, but new information indicates that she may have traveled to Syria via Turkey on Jan. 2, well before this week's violence.

Here is a look at what we know about each of the suspects — with the caveat that we don't yet know much.


Boumeddiene, 26, is said to have been married to alleged attacker Amedy Coulibaly in a religious ceremony that is not recognized by French law.

She was reportedly born into a large family in the Paris suburb of Villiers-sur-Marne. Agence France-Presse says her mother "died when she was six and Boumeddiene was put into foster care with her young siblings because her father, a delivery man, was unable to take care of them," AFP says.

Boumeddiene reportedly met Coulibaly while she was working as a cashier "and waited four years for him to come out of prison following his conviction for armed robbery," according to The Telegraph.

The newspaper Le Parisien says she lost her cashier job because she insisted on wearing the top-to-toe Islamic wear known as a niqab.

Boumeddiene and Coulibaly were "married" in July 2009 and lived together in Bagneux, in south Paris.

Le Parisien reports that Boumeddiene was in regular phone contact with the wife of Cherif Kouachi, one of the two men who allegedly attacked the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, killing 12 people, including journalists and the publication's outspoken editor.

The Telegraph quotes Le Parisien as saying:

"Analysis of their phone records showed the two women had spoken more than 500 times in 2014, highlighting how well the two sets of attackers knew each other.

"Francois Molins, the Paris prosecutor, said the phone records proved 'constant and sustained' contact between the two."

Le Monde has published photographs it says show Boumeddiene and Coulibaly in poses holding weapons. Boumeddiene is shown in niqab. However, the Telegraph has run a fuzzy photo it says is of the couple on a beach. In it, Coulibaly is bare-chested and Boumeddiene is wearing a string bikini top.

A mug shot of Boumeddiene dates from 2010, when police questioned her in connection with a plot to break an Algerian jihadi out of prison. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports that Boumeddiene, Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers were all linked to the plot.

Bouddiene's whereabouts are unknown. Some reports now suggests that she might have left France days before the attack.


A photo of Amedy Coulibaly provided by the Paris Police Prefecture Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.
Prefecture de Police / AP
A photo of Amedy Coulibaly provided by the Paris Police Prefecture Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.

Coulibaly, 32, the partner of Boumeddiene, was killed by police on Friday during the siege of a Jewish kosher supermarket in Paris. Four hostages were also killed.

Coulibaly was "born in 1982 in the Paris suburb of Juvisy-sur-Orge, the only boy in a Senegalese family including nine daughters, according to French media, citing police reports," The Washington Post writes.

AFP says he was a "longtime criminal who apparently became a radical Muslim during one of his frequent stints in prison."

The Post adds:

"He had been under the eye of French authorities for years — although former president Nicolas Sarkozy's security advisers apparently failed to detect any ties to Islamic militants ahead of the likely 2009 meeting with the president. The Parisien newspaper wrote at the time that Coulibaly had been selected to meet the French leader at the Elysee Palace as part of an effort to promote youth employment."

"In and out of prison since 2001, Coulibaly is believed to have converted to radical Islam while serving time for armed robbery in 2005. Prison is where he met Cherif Kouachi, a senior French police official said. The two men became devoted followers of Djamel Beghal, a French Algerian man with ties to al-Qaeda who was convicted in 2001 of plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris."

Before he was killed by police on Friday, Coulibaly reportedly told France's BFM-TV that he had coordinated his hostage-taking with the Kouachi brothers, who are believed to be behind the Charlie Hebdo attack.

One witness to the supermarket attack was quoted by The New York Times as saying Coulibaly "introduced himself as a Muslim from Mali who belonged to the Islamic State."


This photo provided by The Paris Police Prefecture Thursday, Jan.8, 2015 shows the suspects Cherif, left, and Said Kouachi.
/ AP
This photo provided by The Paris Police Prefecture Thursday, Jan.8, 2015 shows the suspects Cherif, left, and Said Kouachi.

The brothers, of Algerian extraction, are now dead. They are said to have carried out the deadly attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Reuters says the two had been on surveillance and "no fly" lists for many years.

The brothers were killed after escaping their attack on the magazine and leading police on a two-day manhunt that ended at a printing works outside Paris on Friday.

Before he died, however, Cherif reportedly told French television in an interview that he had received financing for his operation from Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical, al-Qaida-linked preacher who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.

"I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by Al Qaeda of Yemen. I went over there and it was Anwar al-Awlaki who financed me," he told BFM-TV by telephone, according to a recording aired by the channel after the siege was over, Reuters reports.

A senior Yemeni intelligence source tells Reuters that Kouachi's brother, Said, also met al-Awlaki during a stay in Yemen in 2011.

The prosecutor Molins says Cherif's wife was in "sustained" telephone contact with Boumeddiene. Cherif's wife is being questioned by French police, Reuters says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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