Following the tangled and treacherous trail after France terror attack – CNN
(CNN)The first headlines immediately after the attack at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris provide a snapshot of the massacre: two masked men killed 12 people.
The threads that investigators have followed from the newsroom of the satirical magazine have led to other countries, including Yemen, Turkey, Syria and Bulgaria.
The untangling of who was behind the attack has also revealed other suspects, and there have been claims of links to the biggest terrorist groups, al Qaeda and ISIS, which now calls itself the Islamic State.
Here is a look at the key people, places and questions that the investigative trail has led authorities to:
How many accomplices remain at large?
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has virtually ruled out a “lone wolf” scenario.
Besides Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers identified as the shooters and later killed by police, another man, Amedy Coulibaly, has been linked to the attack. Police killed him last week after he took hostages at a Paris kosher grocery store.
There is one named suspect at large: Hayat Boumeddiene, the widow of Coulibaly.
But there are other suspects. French citizen Fritz-Joly Joachin was arrested in Bulgaria at the border with Turkey on an unrelated charge, but he faces terrorism charges in relation to the Charlie Hebdo attack.
“We are doing everything we can to dismantle what appears to be a network. … No doubt there was complicity and networks and maybe finance also,” Valls told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
The Associated Press reports that up to six members of a terror cell linked to the attacks could still be at large.
So, who was behind this plot?
Given the magnitude of the attack and the apparent sophistication of the gunmen, many wonder who, if anyone, trained or possibly gave orders to the attackers.
Past statements by the suspects claim allegiance to al Qaeda or ISIS, an unsatisfying answer because the two terror groups are considered rivals. Both jihadist groups have an Islamist worldview, however, and it is possible that even if the suspects plotted together, they may have been inspired by different groups.
Cherif and Said Kouachi are both said to have traveled to Yemen. Cherif, before he was killed by police, told CNN affiliate BFMTV that he’d trained in Yemen with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Cherif Kouachi used his brother’s passport to travel to Yemen in 2011, two Western intelligence sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN, adding that it was likely he had trained with AQAP there.
A senior Yemeni national security official told CNN that Said had also entered Yemen multiple times.
Coulibaly, the man behind the attack at the kosher grocery store, also called BFMTV before he was killed. He purportedly said by phone that he belonged to ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. That information hasn’t been corroborated by authorities, and it’s not known whether he knew any leaders or members of that terrorist group.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, his widow, Boumeddiene, is believed to have fled to Syria, where ISIS operates.
Terrorism experts say ISIS and al Qaeda have an adversarial relationship, so how are the self-proclaimed al Qaeda followers Said and Cherif Kouachi linked to the self-proclaimed ISIS member Coulibaly?
Said Kouachi’s wife told investigators that her husband and Coulibaly knew each other well.
French court documents show that Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi were also close associates and plotted to stage a prison break to free a fellow terrorist in 2010.
Kouachi and Coulibaly had a mentor in common, a radical named Djamel Beghal. Once known as al Qaeda’s premiere European recruiter, Beghal was convicted of conspiring to attack the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
What role did Hayat Boumeddiene actually play?
Boumeddiene’s name came to light in the Paris attacks shortly after the Kouachi brothers were identified. She was named a suspect together with her husband, Coulibaly.
There were initial reports that she had fled after the kosher market attack, but this was not confirmed, and new evidence suggests that she was not in France at all during the attacks.
But she could be a key to unraveling the details behind the attacks. Authorities are looking into whether Boumeddiene helped prepare the attacks before leaving France.
Boumeddiene arrived in Turkey from Madrid on January 2, five days before the first attack in Paris, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reports.
Boumeddiene stayed at an Istanbul hotel and then traveled to Syria on Thursday, Andalou said. The last place authorities spotted Boumeddiene was somewhere near Turkey’s border with Syria.
A surveillance video image shows her at an Istanbul airport airport with a man beside her. On Tuesday, France’s Le Monde newspaper identified the man as Mehdi Belhoucine, describing him as someone known to French intelligence and who could have ties to a separate jihadist cell. Belhoucine’s brother, the newspaper said, was imprisoned last year for helping send fighters to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Who is the person arrested in Bulgaria?
He is French citizen Fritz-Joly Joachin.
He was arrested near the border with Turkey for allegedly kidnapping his son, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Betina Joteva said. The ministry said that Joachin will remain in custody until at least January 20, when a “court will consider (a) second warrant related to terrorism charges.”
A Belgian prosecutors said the terrorism charge is regarding Joachin’s contacts with the Kouachi brothers, AFP reported.
“The charges are for participation in an organized crime group whose aim was … terrorist acts,” Slavova said.
Bulgarian officials referred further questions to French authorities.
It is unclear what Joachin’s contact with the Kouachi brothers entailed.
Is France in danger of additional attacks?
As French officials dig deeper into the suspects behind the attack, they must deal with a new threat from an al Qaeda affiliate.
The affiliate in North Africa, the Islamic Maghred, published a threat against France on jihadist websites.
“France pays the cost of its violence on Muslim countries and the violation of their sanctity,” AQIM said in its statement.
“As long as its soldiers occupy countries such as Mali and Central Africa and bombard our people in Syria and Iraq, and as long as its lame media continues to undermine our Prophet (Mohammed), France will expose itself to the worst and more.”