Saïd Kouachi

Saïd Kouachi was a French citizen of Algerian origin and one of two brothers who carried out the January 2015 attack against the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.Harriet Alexander, “How did the Paris terrorists get hold of their weapons?” Daily Telegraph (London), January 17, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11351855/How-did-the-Paris-terrorists-get-hold-of-their-weapons.html. According to Yemeni intelligence, both brothers had trained alongside al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in mid-2011 in Yemen, where they met Anwar al-Awlaki, the AQAP cleric killed by a U.S. drone strike in September of that year.“Kouachi brothers had weapons training in Yemen,” Al Jazeera America, January 11, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/1/11/kouachi-france.html.

On the morning of January 7, 2015, Kouachi and his younger brother Chérif Kouachi forcibly entered the Charlie Hebdo office armed with assault rifles, submachine guns, pistols, and a rocket launcher.Harriet Alexander, “How did the Paris terrorists get hold of their weapons?” Daily Telegraph (London), January 17, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11351855/How-did-the-Paris-terrorists-get-hold-of-their-weapons.html. Within 10 minutes, they murdered 11 people, six of whom were cartoonists.“Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror,” BBC News, January 14, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30708237. While fleeing the premises, the brothers shouted that they had carried out the attack on behalf of AQAP.Mohammed Ghobari, “Exclusive: Paris attack suspect met prominent al Qaeda preacher in Yemen – intelligence source,” Reuters, January 9, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-yemen-idUSKBN0KI0PW20150109. The pair killed another police officer outside on the street, but managed to evade capture for two days. On January 9, French police confronted and killed both brothers in a shootout in Dammartin-en-Goële, 22 miles northeast of Paris.“Charlie Hebdo hunt: Bloody end to sieges,” BBC News, January 10, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30752239.

According to former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, the Kouachi brothers targeted Charlie Hebdo because the magazine had published cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Their motive was “absolutely clear,” said Morell, who added that the brothers were “trying to shut down a media organization that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad.”Dan Bilefsky and Maïa de la Baume, “Terrorists Strike Charlie Hebdo Newspaper, Leaving 12 Dead,” New York Times, January 7, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/world/europe/charlie-hebdo-paris-shooting.html?_r=1.

The Kouachi brothers, of Algerian descent, grew up in France. Their father died during the brothers’ early teenage years. Their mother sent them to a state school for special-needs children because she was unable to care for them. The Kouachis’ mother died before they completed school and they did not proceed to university. The brothers moved to Paris’s 19th arrondisement, a neighborhood known for its large and poor immigrant population.Scott Bronstein, “Cherif and Said Kouachi: Their path to terror,” CNN, January 14, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/13/world/kouachi-brothers-radicalization/index.html.

In the 19th arrondisement, the brothers attended Adda’wa mosque, a.k.a. La Mosquee de Stalingrad, with French Islamist cleric Farid Benyettou.Scott Bronstein, “Terror suspect Cherif Kouachi: ‘I was ready to go and die in battle,’” CNN, January 10, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/09/europe/cherif-kouachi-court-documents/index.html. In 2009, the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly regularly met with Djamel Beghal, an al-Qaeda recruiter of Algerian descent who had been previously imprisoned for plotting to attack the U.S. embassy in Paris in 2001.Scott Bronstein, “Cherif and Said Kouachi: Their path to terror,” CNN, January 14, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/13/world/kouachi-brothers-radicalization/index.html. During their meetings, Beghal, Coulibaly, and the Kouachi brothers reportedly plotted to break Smain Ali Belkacem—convicted for the 1995 Paris metro bombing—out of prison.Carol Kuruvilla and Jaweed Kaleem, “Amedy Coulibaly, Paris Kosher Market Terrorist, Had History Of Ties To Violence,” Huffington Post, January 10, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/09/amedy-coulibaly-paris-kosher-market_n_6444418.html; “Paris attacks: Suspects’ profiles,” BBC News, January 12, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30722038. Police monitoring the group arrested the men in May 2010 before they could carry out the prison break.Greg Botelho and Ray Sanchez, “France: Raids kill 3 suspects, including 2 wanted in Charlie Hebdo attack,” CNN, January 21, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/09/europe/charlie-hebdo-paris-shooting/. The Kouachi brothers were implicated in the plot, but were not charged due to lack of evidence.Carol Kuruvilla and Jaweed Kaleem, “Amedy Coulibaly, Paris Kosher Market Terrorist, Had History Of Ties To Violence,” Huffington Post, January 10, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/09/amedy-coulibaly-paris-kosher-market_n_6444418.html.

Both Saïd and his brother reportedly had contact with Anwar al-Awlaki. According to an unnamed Yemeni security official, at some point between late July and early August of 2011, the brothers traveled to Yemen where they received training from AQAP and met with Awlaki.“Kouachi brothers had weapons training in Yemen,” Al Jazeera America, January 11, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/1/11/kouachi-france.html. On January 9, 2015, during the final siege in Dammartin-en-Goële, Saïd’s brother Chérif told French media over a phone call interview that Awlaki had financed his trip to Yemen.“Charlie Hebdo shooter says financed by Qaeda preacher in Yemen,” Reuters, January 9, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-yemen-finance-idUSKBN0KI1Y320150109.

The Kouachi brothers’ attack on Chalie Hebdo was also linked to Coulibaly’s January 9, 2015, attack on Paris’s Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket.Griff Witte, “In a kosher grocery store in Paris, terror takes a deadly toll,” Washington Post, January 9,2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/paris-kosher-market-seized-in-second-hostage-drama-in-nervous-france/2015/01/09/f171b97e-97ff-11e4-8005-1924ede3e54a_story.html?utm_term=.2d7aacfbb438; Angus Berwick, “Spanish police arrest man suspected of arming Paris supermarket gunman,” Reuters, April 13, 2016, http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKCN0XA1JA?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0. Coulibaly took 16 occupants hostage, and reportedly demanded that police allow the Kouachi brothers to escape their hideout in Dammartin.Griff Witte, “In a kosher grocery store in Paris, terror takes a deadly toll,” Washington Post, January 9,2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/paris-kosher-market-seized-in-second-hostage-drama-in-nervous-france/2015/01/09/f171b97e-97ff-11e4-8005-1924ede3e54a_story.html?utm_term=.2d7aacfbb438; John Lichfield, “Paris attackers interview with French TV station: ‘We are defenders of the Prophet… We took vengeance’, said Charlie Hebdo killer Cherif Kouachi,” Independent (London), January 10, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/paris-attackers-gave-interview-to-french-tv-station-we-are-defenders-of-the-prophet-we-took-9969749.html; 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/. Coulibaly claimed in a phone interview that he had “coordinated [with the Kouachi brothers] from the beginning.”Griff Witte, “In a kosher grocery store in Paris, terror takes a deadly toll,” Washington Post, January 9,2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/paris-kosher-market-seized-in-second-hostage-drama-in-nervous-france/2015/01/09/f171b97e-97ff-11e4-8005-1924ede3e54a_story.html?utm_term=.2d7aacfbb438; “Paris gunman appears in video, declares loyalty to Islamic State,” Reuters, January 11, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-video-gunman-idUSKBN0KK0BL20150111; John Lichfield, “Paris attackers interview with French TV station: ‘We are defenders of the Prophet… We took vengeance’, said Charlie Hebdo killer Cherif Kouachi,” Independent (London), January 10, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/paris-attackers-gave-interview-to-french-tv-station-we-are-defenders-of-the-prophet-we-took-9969749.html. On January 10, a video was distributed online in which Coulibaly claimed to have synchronized his attacks with the Kouachi brothers.Fidelma Cook, Lucy Crossley, Tom Kelly, and Claire Duffin, “Hebdo killers in ISIS martyrdom video – as French police discover his massive arms cache and link him to another shooting two days earlier,” Daily Mail (London), January 11, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2905302/Calm-stare-Jewish-deli-terrorist-Jihadist-s-ISIS-suicide-video-emerges-confirms-link-Charlie-Hebdo-killers-calls-fellow-vigorous-Muslims-defend-prophet-Mohammed.html.

 
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