French authorities say links have emerged between two brothers suspected of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and a man believed to have killed a policewoman in Paris a day later.
I was sent. Me, Cherif Kouachi, by al Qaeda of Yemen.
Police have confirmed all three men were members of the same Islamist unit in northern Paris.
Shortly before dying in a shootout with armed forces, a man claiming to be suspect Cherif Kouachi, 32, told French news channel BFMTV that the operation carried out at the satirical magazine had been funded by al Qaeda.
“I was sent. Me, Cherif Kouachi, by al Qaeda of Yemen”, the voice claimed. “I went over there and it was Anwar al Awlaki who financed me.”
Al Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Prior to his death, he had been an influential preacher and international recruiter for al Qaeda.
It has come to light that Amedy Coulibaly, also 32, a suspect in the killing of a policewoman in Paris, met with the then President Nicholas Sarkozy in 2009 as part of youth employment group.
On Friday (January 9) he allegedly also spoke to BFMTV, saying the Paris attacks were jointly planned.
Coulibaly was killed when armed forces stormed the kosher supermarket in which he was holding hostages.
He and Cherif Kouachi served time together in the notorious French prison Fleury-Mérogis. While there, Coulibaly converted to Islam and became radicalised.
The pair are thought to have been disciples of Djamel Beghal, a radical figure convicted of planning a terrorist attack on the French capital.
Said Kouachi, 34, brother of Cherif and the second suspect in the Charlie Hebdo attack is reported to have travelled to Yemen in 2011 to train with al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.
An audio recording attributed to a leader in the Yemeni branch of the organisation (AQAP) seems to justify the Paris shootings, although the group does not claim responsibility for the attacks.
“Some in France have misbehaved with the prophets of God and a group of God’s faithful soldiers taught them how to behave and the limits of freedom of speech”, the recording, purported to be the voice of Sheikh Hareth al-Nadhari, proclaims.
“Soldiers who love God and his prophet and who are in love with martyrdom for the sake of God had come to you.”
French authorities are now thought to be focussing on finding Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, who lived with Coulibaly.
Surveillance of radicals
Questions have been raised about the surveillance of radicals. All three male suspects were known to the French authorities.
The country’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls said there had been a “clear failing” in French intelligence, saying:
“If 17 people die, this means mistakes have been made.”
The Kouachi brothers had allegedly been under surveillance and were reportedly on the European and US ‘no fly’ lists.