Monday 25th of January 2021

drawing blood...

kouachiPARIS — In the year after the United States’ invasion of Iraq, a 22-year-old pizza delivery man here couldn’t take it anymore. Sickened by images of American soldiers humiliating Muslims at the Abu Ghraib prison, he made plans to go fight United States forces. He studied a virtual AK-47 on a website. Then he took lessons from a man, using a hand-drawn picture of a gun.

It was an almost laughable attempt at jihad, and as the day of his departure approached, the delivery man, Chérif Kouachi, felt increasingly unsure of himself.

When the police arrested him hours before his 6:45 a.m. Alitalia flight on Jan. 25, 2005, he was relieved. “Several times, I felt like pulling out. I didn’t want to die there,” he later told investigators. “I told myself that if I chickened out, they would call me a coward, so I decided to go anyway, despite the reservations I had.”

A decade later, Chérif Kouachi, flanked by his older brother Saïd, 34, no longer had any reservations, as the two jihadists in black, sheathed in body armor, gave a global audience a ruthless demonstration in terrorism.

Walking with military precision into the guarded Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, they killed 12 people in the name of Islam. Then in the hours before the brothers died in a gunfight with the police, Chérif nonchalantly took a telephone call from a reporter to make sure the world knew they were carrying out the attack on behalf of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

The 10-year evolution from easily spooked amateur to hardened killer is a story of steadily deepening radicalism that occurred virtually under the noses of French authorities, who twice had Chérif in their grasp. After the arrest of Chérif in 2005, when he was no more than a fledgling jihadist, he spent 20 months in prison. There, he met and became an acolyte of Al Qaeda’s top operative in France, Djamel Beghal, who had been dispatched to Paris to set up a cell aimed at attacking United States interests here, French counterterrorism officials said.

He also befriended a convicted robber, Amedy Coulibaly, who would later synchronize his own terrorist attack with the Kouachi brothers, killing a police officer and staging a siege inside a kosher supermarket in the days after the Charlie Hebdo carnage, bringing the death toll to 17.

Much remains unclear about their lives. But thousands of pages of legal documents obtained by The New York Times, including minutes of interrogations, summaries of phone taps, intercepted jailhouse letters and a catalog of images and religious texts found on the laptops of Chérif Kouachi and Mr. Coulibaly, reveal an arc of radicalization that saw them become steadily more professional and more discreet.



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Picture at top: latest cover from Charlie Hebdo...

killed at a warehouse ...

From 2015


French police have stormed two hostage sites in the Paris area, killing three hostage takers.

Two brothers suspected of the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine on Wednesday were killed at a warehouse where they had held a hostage north of Paris.

In a second incident, in eastern Paris, anti-terrorist forces stormed a kosher supermarket where hostages were being held by a gunman with reported links to the brothers.

Gavin Hewitt reports from the scene in Dammartin-en-Goele.


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