French police stopped surveilling the deadly Parisian terror cell which this week killed 17 people six months ago as they were deemed to be ‘low risk’. One of the members, Hayat Boumeddiene, the wife of supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly, is believed to have fled to Syria. It has emerged that she made more than 500 calls over the last year to the wife of Charif Kouachi, who killed the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists along with his brother Said.
Last night Jean-Marc Falcone, head of the French Police service, branded Boumeddiene “armed and dangerous”. It is believed that she helped to plan the attacks, even smuggling weapons across the border into France, the Daily Mail has reported.
Said Kouachi, the elder of the two brothers, who are of Algerian descent, is known to have travelled to Yemen for weapons training. There he met Anwar al-Awlaki, the mastermind behind many of al Qaida’s plots, who was killed by a US drone strike.
Following Kouachi’s return from Yemen in 2011, he and his brother, along with Boumeddiene and Coulibaly were put under phone, internet and physical surveillance. “But between that date and the summer of 2014, nothing suggested any connection with a radical Islamist movement,” said a Paris judicial source. “So the surveillance was stopped in order to refocus on other individuals who at that moment presented a higher risk.”
Boumeddiene, who is also of Algerian decent, comes from a family of seven. Her mother died when she was just six and she was in and out of care as a youngster, working as a cashier at a supermarket when Coulibaly met and radicalised her.
In 2009 she left her job and started wearing the niqab veil. In 2010, during interviews with the police, she told them that her now husband Couibaly and his radical friends encouraged her to “read a lot of books on religion, and because of this I came to ask questions on religion”.
She added: “When I saw the massacre of the innocents in Palestine, in Iraq, in Chechnya, in Afghanistan or anywhere the Americans sent their bombers, all that… well, who are the terrorists?”
Yesterday detectives suggested that she helped her co-conspirators compile a stash of weapons which included two Russian-made Tokarev machine pistols, commercial explosives and hunting knives. It is thought that the guns were smuggled from the Balkans into Europe, and thence into France by car; it has been speculated that a single woman would be able to get away with covertly transporting the weapons much more easily than a man.
Meanwhile, pictures have emerged of Djamel Beghal, a former disciple of the hate clerics Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, meeting with Amedy Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi. Police surveillance photos taken in 2010 show Koucahi and Beghal together on an anonymous street, whilst Beghal was pictured posing with Coulibaly in 2012 in the French countryside. It is understood that Boumeddine visited Beghal in France for crossbow training whilst he was under house arrest.
Beghal is known to have recruited Cherif Kouachi for al Qaida whilst they were both in prison, and later to have mentored Coulibaly.
Beghal, an Algerian-born French citizen, lived in London during the 1990s where he was a regular at the Finsbury Park Mosque. After becoming radicalised there by Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada he moved his family to Afghanistan and became involved with al Qaida. In 2005 he was jailed by a French court thanks to his links to the jihadi organisation.
His wife, French citizen Sylvie Beghal, lives on benefits in Leicester with the couple’s four children. She is currently appealing her own charges of refusing to co-operate with British police when they were investigating her husband, on human rights grounds. Her case has yet to be heard by the Supreme Court.
A Finsbury Park Mosque spokesman said last week: “Any attempts to link our mosque to at least one of the men suspected of carrying out the attack are completely false.
“We have no information about any connections he had with those who ran the mosque previously. Anyone who visited Finsbury Park Mosque in any capacity prior to February 2005 did so under the previous management which was removed after a very public struggle against it.”