Mohamed Belhoucine

Mohamed Belhoucine is a French jihadist who allegedly was the mentor to Amedy Coulibaly, the pro-ISIS terrorist who carried out the January 9, 2015, kosher supermarket attack in Paris.“France Pushes Back Charlie Hebdo Attack Trial To September,” Barron’s, March 31, 2020, https://www.barrons.com/news/france-pushes-back-charlie-hebdo-attack-trial-to-september-01585657804. Additionally, he has been considered the main facilitator of Coulibaly’s spouse Hayat Boumedienne’s flight to Syria.Boris Thiolay, “Jihadists at bac + 5 level,” L’Express, October 23, 2018, https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/enquete/djihadistes-niveau-bac-5_2039581.html. On December 16, 2020, Belhoucine and 13 others were convicted in France for aiding the 2015 attacks.Valentin Bontemps and Anne-Sophie Lasserre. “French Court Jails 13 Accomplices Over Charlie Hebdo Attack,” International Business Times, December 16, 2020, https://www.ibtimes.com/french-court-jails-13-accomplices-over-charlie-hebdo-attack-3103065.

Belhoucine was a former engineering student at the Albi School of Mines (Tarn). However, he did not complete his studies and dropped out after two years in 2009. In 2010, Belhoucine was arrested by French authorities for his role in the “Afghan sector,” which was a group that allegedly facilitated the travel of jihadists to Afghanistan and Pakistan. On July 11, 2014, the Paris Criminal Court sentenced Belhoucine to two years in prison, but his sentence was suspended after one year.Boris Thiolay, “Jihadists at bac + 5 level,” L’Express, October 23, 2018, https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/enquete/djihadistes-niveau-bac-5_2039581.html.

Reports allege that Belhoucine met Coulibaly sometime in 2014 and began to provide Coulibaly with jihadist literature and facilitated Coulibaly’s online communication with jihadist sponsors.Boris Thiolay, “Jihadists at bac + 5 level,” L’Express, October 23, 2018, https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/enquete/djihadistes-niveau-bac-5_2039581.html. On January 9, 2015, Coulibaly opened fire on a Paris kosher supermarket, ultimately killing four people. Coulibaly was subsequently killed in a shootout with police later that day.Ricky Ben-David, “4 dead as French forces storm kosher supermarket, kill gunman; Charlie Hebdo terrorist brothers also killed,” Times of Israel, January 10, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/terror-onslaught-in-paris/. It was reported that Belhoucine had flown into Istanbul from Madrid a week earlier on January 2, 2015. Six days later, he evaded Turkish authorities and reportedly entered Syria with his brother, Mehdi, and Coulibaly’s widow, Hayat Boumedienne.“Paris Gunman ‘was with five others in Madrid’,” The Local, January 11, 2015, https://www.thelocal.es/20150117/paris-gunman-coulibaly-was-with-five-others-in-madrid.

Following the kosher supermarket attack, French authorities inspected Coulibaly’s apartment and discovered Belhoucine’s writings, which included a letter of allegiance to ISIS.Boris Thiolay, “Jihadists at bac + 5 level,” L’Express, October 23, 2018, https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/enquete/djihadistes-niveau-bac-5_2039581.html. Additionally, French authorities discovered that Belhoucine had provided Coulibaly with two encrypted messaging accounts, which Coulibaly used to communicate with the sponsor of the two attacks he later carried out. The sponsor was never identified, but it is alleged he was based in Turkey and operated an account with the name [email protected]Boris Thiolay, “Jihadists at bac + 5 level,” L’Express, October 23, 2018, https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/enquete/djihadistes-niveau-bac-5_2039581.html.

Unconfirmed reports claimed that Belhoucine had been killed in Syria in 2016 following a series of drone strikes carried out by coalition forces in the region.“France Pushes Back Charlie Hebdo Attack Trial To September,” Barron’s, March 31, 2020, https://www.barrons.com/news/france-pushes-back-charlie-hebdo-attack-trial-to-september-01585657804; Sarah Chemla, “France’s ‘most-wanted woman’ absent from 2015 Paris attacks trial,” Jerusalem Post, September 2, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/frances-most-wanted-woman-absent-from-2015-paris-attacks-trial-640783.

On September 2, 2020, France’s anti-terrorism prosecutors began the trials of 14 people accused of aiding the 2015 terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and other Paris targets, including the kosher supermarket attack.“France Pushes Back Charlie Hebdo Attack Trial To September,” Barron’s, March 31, 2020, https://www.barrons.com/news/france-pushes-back-charlie-hebdo-attack-trial-to-september-01585657804. Belhoucine was one of three suspects tried in absentia along with his brother Mehdi Belhoucine and Hayat Boumedienne.“France Pushes Back Charlie Hebdo Attack Trial To September,” Barron’s, March 31, 2020, https://www.barrons.com/news/france-pushes-back-charlie-hebdo-attack-trial-to-september-01585657804. According to prosecutors, Belhoucine helped Coulibaly prepare his attack, connected him with ISIS militants, and helped him prepare the video in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS.“Factbox: The Charlie Hebdo attackers and their alleged accomplices,” Reuters, September 1, 2020, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-france-charliehebdo-suspects-factbox-idUKKBN25S6B3. All 14 defendants were found guilty on December 16, 2020. Belhoucine received a life sentence, though his whereabouts remain unknown. His brother, Mehdi Belhoucine, was also found guilty but was not sentenced because of what the court claimed to be overwhelming evidence that he was dead.Valentin Bontemps and Anne-Sophie Lasserre. “French Court Jails 13 Accomplices Over Charlie Hebdo Attack,” International Business Times, December 16, 2020, https://www.ibtimes.com/french-court-jails-13-accomplices-over-charlie-hebdo-attack-3103065; Roger Cohen, “French Court Finds 14 People Guilty of Aiding Charlie Hebdo and Anti-Semitic Attacks,” New York Times, December 16, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/16/world/europe/charlie-hebdo-trial-guilty.html.

 
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