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Jan 12, 2015 6:49 PM

Police: As many as 6 Paris terror suspects may be at large

The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) As many as six members of a terrorist cell involved in the Paris attacks may still be at large, including a man who was seen driving a car registered to the widow of one of the gunmen, French police said Monday.

The disclosure came as France deployed 10,000 troops to protect sensitive sites including Jewish schools and neighborhoods in the wake of the attacks that killed 17 people last week.

Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi and their friend, Amedy Coulibaly, were killed Friday by police after a murderous spree at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. The three all claimed ties to Islamic extremists in the Middle East.

Two police officials told The Associated Press that authorities were searching the Paris area for the Mini Cooper registered to Hayat Boumeddiene, Coulibaly's widow. Turkish officials say she is now in Syria.

One of the police officials said the cell consisted of about 10 members, and that "five or six could still be at large," but he did not provide their names. The other official said the cell was made up of about eight people and included Boumeddiene.

One of the other men believed to be part of the cell has been seen driving Boumeddiene's car around Paris in recent days, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation with the media. They cautioned that it was not clear whether the driver was an operative, involved in logistics, or had some other, less-violent role in the cell.

An Interior Ministry official declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, and a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office was not immediately available for comment.

One of the police officials also said Coulibaly apparently set off a car bomb Thursday in the town of Villejuif, but no one was injured and it did not receive significant media attention at the time.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the manhunt is urgent because "the threat is still present" from the attacks.

"The work on these attacks, on these terrorist and barbaric acts continues ... because we consider that there are most probably some possible accomplices," Valls told BFM television.

The nationwide deployment of troops would be completed by Tuesday and would focus on the most sensitive locations, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

By midday Monday, soldiers and police filled Paris' Marais district one of the country's oldest Jewish neighborhoods. About 4,700 of the security forces would be assigned to protect France's 717 Jewish schools, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

"A little girl was telling me earlier that she wanted to live in peace and learn in peace in her school," Cazeneuve said on a visit to a Paris Jewish classroom, where the walls were covered with children's drawings of smiling faces.

"That's what the government, that's what the Republic, owes to all the children in France: security in all schools, especially in the schools that could be threatened," he added.

The children listened and waved Israeli and French flags.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the kosher market. Volunteers, meanwhile, recited prayers over the bodies of some victims as they were prepared for burial by the Jewish Burial Society in Paris.

The attacks began Wednesday with 12 people killed at the publication Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions, by gunmen the police identified as the Kouachi brothers. Police have said, however, that the attack was carried out by three people.

Authorities said Coulibaly killed a policewoman Thursday and then killed four people at the kosher market Friday before he was slain by police.

Video emerged Sunday of Coulibaly explaining how the attacks in Paris would unfold. French police want to find the person or persons who shot and posted the video, which was edited after Friday's attacks.

Boumeddiene was seen traveling through Turkey with a male companion before reportedly arriving in Syria with him on Jan. 8 the day after the Charlie Hebdo attack and the same day Coulibaly began his murderous spree by killing the policewoman.

According to security camera video shown Monday by Turkey's Haberturk newspaper, Boumeddiene arrived Jan. 2 at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport. A high-ranking Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the woman on the video was Boumeddiene.

Turkish intelligence then tracked Boumeddiene from her arrival.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu Agency that she had stayed at a hotel in Istanbul with another person before crossing into Syria on Thursday. She and her traveling companion, a 23-year-old man identified as Mehdy Sabry Belhoucine, toured Istanbul before leaving Jan. 4 for a town near the Turkish border, according to a Turkish intelligence official who was not authorized to speak by name. Little was known about Belhoucine.

Her last phone signal was Jan. 8 from the border town of Akcakale, where she apparently crossed into Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria, the official said. Their Jan. 9 return plane tickets to Madrid went unused.

Germany's domestic intelligence chief urged Turkey to do more to prevent extremists crossing its territory to join the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he saw hypocrisy in the West's reaction to the Paris attacks and asked why Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi were not monitored more closely after being released from prison.

"Doesn't the intelligence service there follow those who have been released?" Erdogan said at a news conference in Istanbul with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"The hypocrisy of the West is plain to see," he said. "We as Muslims never sided with terrorism, we never sided with massacres. What lies behind these massacres is racism, hate speech and Islamophobia."

In Dresden, Germany, thousands of people attended a weekly anti-Islam rally its biggest turnout yet after organizers declared it a tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks.

Organizers said 40,000 people participated, while Dresden police put the figure at over 25,000 people still considerably more than the 18,000 who came last week.

The group, which calls itself Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, had asked supporters to wear black ribbons as a show of respect for those killed last week.

"The terrible acts of Paris are further proof that PEGIDA is needed," said Lutz Bachmann, one of the organizers of the Dresden rally.

Witnesses said the Kouachis claimed they were being supported by al-Qaida in Yemen, the group the U.S. considers the most dangerous offshoot of that network. In his video and in comments to French media before he died, Coulibaly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, which has taken over large sections of Iraq and Syria but is a bitter rival of al-Qaida.

Ties among the three attackers date back to at least 2005, when Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi, 32, were jailed together. It later emerged that Said Kouachi, 34, fought with or was trained by al-Qaida in Yemen. Cherif Kouachi was also convicted in 2008 along with several others of belonging to a network that sent jihadis to fight American forces in Iraq.

French judicial documents obtained last week by the AP said Coulibaly and the younger Kouachi knew each another and traveled with their wives in 2010 to central France to visit a radical Islamist, Djamel Beghal, who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on a terrorism-related charge.

Late Monday, the website of the newspaper Liberation, which has been hosting the Charlie Hebdo staff, posted an image of the next cover of the satirical weekly. It featured a cartoon of a bearded man in a turban with a tear streaming down his cheek, and holding a sign: "Je Suis Charlie" "I Am Charlie."

Overhead was the phrase: "All is forgiven."


Associated Press writers Lori Hinnant, Sylvie Corbet, Thomas Adamson and John-Thor Dahlburg in Paris; Frank Jordans in Dresden, Germany; Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey; and Desmond O. Butler in Istanbul contributed to this story.


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