French officials scramble to thwart future attacks | Inquirer News

French officials scramble to thwart future attacks

, / 01:38 AM January 11, 2015

A woman puts up signs reading "I Am Charlie", "I Am A Police Officer", "I Am Mourning", and "I Am Jewish" after the attack on a kosher market, rear, in Paris, France, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. What started as a hunt for two terror suspects who attacked satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo took on an even graver focus Friday as French police grappled with a potential terrorist cell. The suspects knew each other, had been linked to previous terrorist activities, and one had fought or trained with Al Qaida in Yemen. AP

A woman puts up signs reading “I Am Charlie”, “I Am A Police Officer”, “I Am Mourning”, and “I Am Jewish” after the attack on a kosher market, rear, in Paris, France, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. AP

PARIS—Key members of the French government will meet Saturday morning (Sunday in Manila) to decide on new measures aimed at thwarting a repeat of the attacks in Paris that culminated in a massacre of 12 people at a satirical newspaper, and a supermarket bloodbath that left four hostages dead.

World leaders have telephoned President François Hollande to express their personal sympathies. On Sunday Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron as well as Italy’s Matteo Renzi, and Spain’s Mariano Rajoy have agreed to join in a unity rally in central Paris, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people.


With explosions and gunfire, security forces on Friday ended the three days of terror, killing the two al-Qaida-linked brothers who staged a murderous rampage at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and an accomplice who seized hostages at a kosher supermarket to try to help the brothers escape.


Twenty people are dead, including the three gunmen. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene—the common law wife of the market attacker—is still at large and believed to be armed.

National reflection

As France’s bloodiest week in decades drew to a close, the mood began to turn to one of grim national reflection.

Questions were also mounting over how the three men, the Kouachi brothers and supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly, had slipped through the security net after it emerged that all three were known to the intelligence agencies.

With fears spreading in the wake of the attack, the United States warned of a global threat, telling its citizens to beware of “terrorist actions and violence” all over the world.

Hollande urged his nation to remain united and vigilant, and the city shut down a central Jewish neighborhood following fears of more violence.


“The threats facing France are not finished,” Hollande said. “We are a free people who don’t cave to pressure.”

He described the attack on the supermarket as an “appalling anti-Semitic act.”

“These fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion,” he said.

‘We stand with you’

As the world rallied to France’s side, US President Barack Obama vowed assistance.

“I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow,” Obama said, describing France as America’s “oldest ally.”

Some of France’s best-loved cartoonists, as well as two police officers, were killed at Charlie Hebdo, a magazine that infuriated Muslims by repeatedly publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

As the drama reached its climax, links emerged showing the brothers and Coulibaly were close allies and had worked together.

Paris prosecutor François Molins, said Coulibaly had “threatened to kill all the hostages” if police moved in on the Kouachi brothers, and he had said the supermarket was booby-trapped.

All three had a radical past and were known to French intelligence.

Cherif Kouachi, 32, was a known jihadist who was convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters to Iraq.

His brother Said, 34, was known to have traveled to Yemen in 2011, where he received weapons training from AQAP.

It also emerged that the brothers had been on a US terror watch list “for years.” Cherif told French TV he was acting on behalf of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula while Coulibaly said he was a member of the Islamic State group.

Coulibaly, 32, who met Kouachi in prison was sentenced to five years in prison in 2013 for his role in a failed bid to break an Algerian Islamist, Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, out of jail.

Praised as ‘heroes’

The Islamic State group’s radio praised them as “heroes” and Somalia’s Shebab militants, al-Qaida’s main affiliate in Africa, hailed their “heroic” act.

While the immediate danger appeared to have cleared, a chilling new warning came from AQAP whose top sharia official Harith al-Nadhari threatened France with fresh attacks, the SITE monitoring group said.

“It is better for you to stop your aggression against the Muslims, so perhaps you will live safely. If you refuse but to wage war, then wait for the glad tiding.”

The drama, which played out on live TV and social media, began with the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi methodically massacring 12 people on Wednesday at the Charlie Hebdo offices.

On Thursday, a gunman that police identified as Amedy Coulibaly shot a policewoman to death south of Paris and, on Friday he attacked the Paris supermarket killing four hostages and threatening more violence unless the police let the Kouachis go.

Al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen said it directed the attack against Charlie Hebdo to avenge the honor of the Prophet Mohammad, a frequent target of the weekly’s satire.

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

‘Paris is Charlie’

Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed in the newspaper attack, including the paper’s editor. Charlie Hebdo plans a special edition next week, produced in the offices of another paper.

On Friday, the mourning capital shone the words “Paris Est Charlie” (Paris Is Charlie) on the Arc de Triomphe monument, playing on the phrase “I Am Charlie” (Je Suis Charlie) that has taken center stage at rallies around the globe and featured heavily on social media.


French weekly has history of angering Muslims with cartoons

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TAGS: bloodbath, France, Mariano Rajoy, Matteo Renzi, Paris

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