In wake of Charlie Hebdo massacre, who were suspects in two hostage standoffs?
(CNN) — After a terrifying attack on a satirical magazine in Paris this week, the gunmen responsible for killing 12 people there were shot down in a standoff with police northeast of the capital Friday.
At the same time, security forces stormed a market in Paris to end a hostage situation there.
The two scenes were linked by the fact that three of the four suspects were thought to be part of the same jihadist group, said Pascal Disant from Alliance Police Union.
Also, the suspects in the second hostage scene demanded the freedom of the suspects in the first, Disant said.
That didn’t work.
The suspects in the magazine slayings were killed Friday near Dammartin-en-Goele in an operation by security forces, the mayor of Othis, France, Bernard Corneille, told CNN.
The hostage standoff in Paris ended at almost the same time when police moved in, killing one of the suspects, with another apparently escaping.
First hostage scene
The two men killed northeast of Paris were the Kouachi brothers, also alleged to have been the gunmen in the deadly terrorist attack on the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, were French citizens known to the country’s security services, according to officials. One spent time in jail for ties to terrorism, and was in Syria as recently as this summer, according to a French source. The other went to Yemen for training, officials say.
A French source close to the French security services told CNN that investigators are looking at evidence that suggests Cherif Kouachi traveled to Syria and returned to France in August 2014.
Investigators don’t know how long he was there, according to the source, who had no information about whether Said Kouachi had also traveled to Syria, as USA Today reported.
But a U.S. official said the United States had information from the French intelligence agency indicating Said Kouachi had traveled to Yemen as late as 2011 on behalf of the al Qaeda affiliate there. A French official also told CNN Said Kouachi had been in Yemen.
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday that one of the brothers had been in Yemen in 2005, but did not say which one.
Both were in the U.S. database of known or suspected international terrorists, known as TIDE, and also had been on the no-fly list for years, a U.S. law enforcement official said.
Second hostage scene
Meanwhile, the suspects in the second hostage-taking incident were Amedy Coulibaly, 32, and Hayat Boumeddiene, 26. They were also believed to have killed a policewoman in Montrouge, a southern suburb of Paris, on Thursday.
Those two suspects allegedly held several people hostage in a kosher store near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris, police union spokesman Romain Fabiano told CNN affiliate BFMTV.
But that incident ended Friday when a police operation led to the death of Coulibaly, authorities said. Several hostages left the supermarket running, flanked by security service agents.
Boumeddiene apparently escaped in the confusion and was the target of massive manhunt Friday, Disant said.
Not much was immediately known about Coulibaly and Boumeddiene.
In fact, police have launched an appeal for information on these two individuals.
But here’s what we know about the Kouachi brothers, who were the subject of an intense manhunt in France that mobilized more than 80,000 law enforcement and military personnel:
The younger of the two brothers was sentenced to three years in prison for being part of a jihadist recruitment ring in Paris that sent fighters to join the conflict in Iraq.
He was arrested in January 2005, at age 22, when he and another man were about to set off for Syria en route to Iraq, where war was raging.
Kouachi’s lawyer Vincent Ollivier said at the time that his client’s profile was more “pot-smoker from the projects than an Islamist.”
“He smokes, drinks, doesn’t sport a beard and has a girlfriend before marriage,” Ollivier told the French newspaper Libération the month after his client’s arrest.
A report from the TV network France 3, which apparently first aired in 2005, described Kouachi as a young fan of rap more interested in chasing girls than going to the mosque. But he changed when he became a student of Farid Benyettou, according to the report.
At trial in 2008, Kouachi was described as coming under the influence of Benyettou, a radical Muslim preacher, at the Addawa mosque in Paris’ 19th arrondissement.
Kouachi’s cursory training for his planned mission in Iraq involved jogging in Paris’ hilly Buttes-Chaumont park and being shown the basics of operating a Kalashnikov by a man he met at the mosque, French newspaper Le Monde reported at the time.
Kouachi told the court that he was motivated by U.S. troops’ abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But he said he was relieved when he was arrested.
“The closer the departure got, the more I wanted to turn back,” he told the judge, according to Le Monde. “But if I chickened out, I was in danger of looking like a coward.”
The court said Kouachi had wanted to attack Jewish targets in France but was told by Benyettou that France, unlike Iraq, wasn’t “a land of jihad,” Bloomberg News reported at the time.
Prosecutors presented no evidence to the court of any plans to carry out attacks in France, according to a New York Times report.
Kouachi and six other people, including Benyettou, were convicted and sentenced to prison in 2008 for their roles in the recruitment ring.
Kouachi didn’t actually go to prison after the trial because half his three-year sentence was suspended and he had already spent enough time in pretrial detention, Bloomberg reported. He was released from custody before the trial.
A former pizza delivery boy, Kouachi was working as a fishmonger in a supermarket at the time of the trial, according to French media.
He told the court that his main interest at the time was rap music, according to Bloomberg.
In 2010, Kouachi was charged in connection with a foiled plot to aid the escape of Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, an Algerian Islamist imprisoned for bombing a Paris commuter rail station in 1995. But public prosecutors later dropped the charges, according to Le Monde.
Kouachi was born in Paris to Algerian parents who died when he and his brother were young, Libération reported.
He was raised in a home in Rennes, a city in the northwestern French region of Brittany, according to the newspaper. He obtained a qualification in sports education before moving back to Paris, it said.
French newspaper Le Figaro talked to neighbors near the apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Gennevilliers that Kouachi reportedly shares with his wife.
People in the neighborhood described him as polite and reserved, the newspaper reported. The local baker, whose name was given only as Salah, said the younger brother was “always cheerful.”
Inside the building, a man who lived on the same floor as Kouachi and his wife described her as wearing a full veil through which only her eyes were visible. The wife “doesn’t speak to any man, ever,” the neighbor, who was only identified by his first name of Eric, told Le Figaro.
Much less is known about the elder Kouachi brother, who doesn’t appear to have as high a profile as his younger sibling.
A French official told CNN that Said Kouachi received training in Yemen. The official did not give details about when the trip occurred or how long it lasted.
A U.S. official says the United States was given information from the French intelligence agency that Said Kouachi traveled to Yemen as late as 2011 on behalf of the al Qaeda affiliate there.
The U.S. official who said Said Kouachi had traveled to Yemen said the man had received a variety of weapons training from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.
It is also possible Said Kouachi was trained in bomb making, a common jihadist training in Yemen.
He has never been convicted of a crime and resided in Reims, in northern France, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters in Paris on Thursday.
His identification card was found in the vehicle abandoned after Wednesday’s attack, Cazeneuve said.
“It was their only mistake,” Dominique Rizet, BFMTV’s police and justice consultant, said earlier.
Mohammed Benali, who runs the mosque in Gennevilliers, the suburb where Cherif Kouachi’s apartment is, said the two brothers used to come to Friday prayers there “not assiduously but regularly.”
He told Le Figaro that he knew Said Kouachi better, but that he hadn’t seen either of the brothers at the mosque in at least two years.
Benali said the older brother was “a very reserved man,” but he recalled one angry outburst in the mosque when the imam encouraged the faithful to vote in the presidential election.
Said Kouachi “had an angry reaction, he left the prayer room and voiced his disagreement,” Benali said. “For these lunatics, when we practice and teach moderate Islam — actual Islam — we’re nonbelievers.”
BFMTV reported that like his brother, Said Kouachi was born in Paris and was known to police.
The Libération report suggested that at the time of Cherif Kouachi’s arrest in 2005, the brothers were staying in Paris with a Frenchman who had converted to Islam.
Said Kouachi was taken into custody and questioned during that investigation but was later released, Le Figaro reported.
His name also came to the attention of police during the investigation of the 2010 prison break plot, but there wasn’t enough evidence to keep investigating him, Le Monde reported.