One of the two French jihadist brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo killings had in the past personally met with deceased chief Al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al Awlaki, according to a senior member of Yemen’s intelligence services who told Reuters on Friday. Awlaki, an American citizen who would later become the most important component to Al Qaeda’s terrorist recruiting network, was neutralized in 2011 via a U.S. drone strike.
The intelligence official said Said Kouachi was granted entry to the country in order to fulfill religious studies.
Previous U.S. reports have indicated that the brothers had been in Yemen for many months training with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The two brothers were also reportedly placed on a “no fly list.” A senior American official told the New York Times that the brothers had “spent a few months” training to develop their combat and marksmanship skills, among other things.
“We do not have confirmed information that he [Said Kouachi] was trained by Al Qaeda but what was confirmed was that he has met with Awlaki in Shabwa,” said the Yemeni intel official. Shabwa, like most of Yemen, remains in a state of chaos and de facto civil war between Al Qaeda and its sympathizers, Shiite-backed Houthi rebels, and the Yemeni government.
Cherif Kouachi was reportedly arrested in 2005 by French authorities for attempting to enter Syria, with hopes of making his way into Iraq to join the jihad against the West during the Iraq war.
Two days after slaughtering the staff at Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, Said and his brother Cherif Kouachi are said to have been killed by police after they were cornered near Dammartin-en-Goele, AFP reports.
On Friday, Breitbart London reported that another jihadist and his female accomplice reportedly took several hostages, and possibly killed two others at a Kosher store north-east of Paris. He is believed to be part of the same AQAP network that the Kouachi brothers had joined, according to reports.