Amedy Coulibaly, the 32-year-old gunman killed by police Friday after taking hostages at a Kosher market on the eastern edge of Paris, has a history of ties to violence, according to reports.
Police said Coulibaly is also suspected of killing a Paris police officer on Thursday in the Montrouge area of the southern Parisian suburbs. At least three hostages died at the Kosher market, the Associated Press reported.
Police told the Associated Press that Coulibaly appeared to know the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack, Said and Cherif Kouachi. The three men were all members of the same Paris jihadist cell that sent French fighters to Iraq a decade ago, Reuters reports. According to France’s L’Obs Coulibaly spent time with Cherif Kouachi when they were both jailed in the Fleury-Mérogis prison between 2005 and 2006.
Per the Guardian:
French media reported that Coulibaly had converted and become radicalised in prison.After an initial spell in prison for armed robbery, he was reported to have then started drug-dealing and served another sentence.
Coulibaly was sentenced in 2010 for plotting to free Islamist militant Smain Ali Belkacem from jail, Reuters said. The BBC notes that the two Kouachi brothers were also named in connection to the attack, but not charged because of lack of evidence.
Police also named a second suspect, a woman named Hayet Boumddiene, 26, as the gunman’s accomplice in Thursday’s police shooting. Her whereabouts on Friday were unclear. Le Monde reports that Boumddiene is Coulibaly’s partner.
Little is known about Coulibaly’s profile, but in one archived article he spoke of being excited when he got to meet former French President Nicholas Sarkozy in 2009. At the time, he was working at a Coca-Cola factory in Gigny, in France’s Burgundy region. “I didn’t know what I was going to say. So I began with hello,” he said to Sarkozy, according to a Daily Mail translation. In the short exchange, he told Sarkozy this his contract was about to be up and asked the president for a job.
While it’s unclear if the Kosher market was targeted because it was Jewish, the attack came at a time of increasing concerns over anti-Semitism in France and Europe. On Twitter, Stephen Pollard, editor of Paris’ Jewish Chronicle, said he believed the hostage-taking would send Jews fleeing France and indicated in one message that he doubted it was a “fluke” that a Jewish store was targeted. “Every single French Jew I know has either left or is actively working out how to leave,” he tweeted.
Charlotte Alfred contributed to this report.