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Kosher grocery hostage-taker’s accomplice 'left France'

French police, AFP | Police handout of Hayat Boumeddiene (pictured left) Amédy Coulibaly (pictured right)

The French police’s search for accomplices in this week’s deadly attacks in Paris turned international when news broke that the girlfriend of the man who took several people hostage at a grocery had left France for Syria last week.

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Amédy Coulibaly, 32, died during a police siege on Friday after taking several people hostage at the Hyper Cacher supermarket near the Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris.

But police are still searching for his girlfriend, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, who was identified as his suspected accomplice in the killing of a young female officer in southern Paris on Thursday. However, the police may have been mistaken about Boumeddiene’s direct involvement in the shooting as news broke Saturday that she had left France for Turkey on January 2. Investigations are underway to check if she might have crossed the border into Syria on January 8.

Police described Boumeddiene as “armed and dangerous”.

“All our services are focused on looking for this person,” national police chief Jean-Marc Falcone told BFMTV. “We call on her to put herself in the hands of justice.”

An official police photograph shows a young woman with long dark hair pushed behind her ears. French media, however, released photos purporting to be of a fully-veiled Boumeddiene, posing with a cross-bow, in what they said was a 2010 training session in the mountainous Cantal region.

During the hostage situation in the kosher supermarket, Coulibaly called BFMTV. During the interview, he said he had jointly planned his attack with the Kouachi brothers, who carried out a bloody attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo Wednesday and died in a siege northeast of Paris at roughly the same time as Coulibaly. Police confirmed they were all members of the same Islamist cell in northern Paris.

Paris prosecutor François Molins said there had been “sustained” contact between Boumeddiene and the wife of Chérif Kouachi, with records of no fewer than 500 phone calls between the two last year. Kouachi's wife is being questioned by French police.

Wed in a religious ceremony

French media described Boumeddiene as one of seven children whose mother died when she was young and whose delivery-man father struggled to keep working while looking after the family. As an adult, she converted to Islam, started wearing the niqab and consequently lost her job as a cashier.

French daily Le Monde said Boumeddiene wed Amédy Coulibaly in a religious ceremony in 2009. The French state only recognises civil unions. The two were questioned by police in 2010 and Coulibaly jailed for his involvement in a botched plot to spring from jail the author of a deadly 1995 attack on the Paris transport system.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
 

 

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