Cherif Kouachi has been named as one of three suspects in the January 7 terror attack at the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
The other suspects are Cherif’s brother, Said Kouachi, 34, and Hamyd Mourad, 18.
Here’s what we know about Cherif Kouachi and his alleged role in this atrocity:
1. Cherif Kouachi Is Dead
The latest information is that the two brothers have been killed after taking a hostage inside of a print-works close in a rural area, north east of Paris. The brothers had reportedly been prepared to die as martyrs. The building where Said and his brother were holed up was raided by French anti-terrorism cops. During that raid, the brothers were both killed. As French special forces closed in on the pair, the Kouachi brothers reportedly tried to shoot their way out of the building and were shot dead during this attempt. You can watch news footage from the raid here:
A French interior ministry spokesman had said just prior to the raid that police want to start a dialogue with the suspects and don’t want to storm the building. In a tweet, the spokesman said “The priority is to establish a dialogue. This can take a long time, hours and sometimes days.” Minutes after that tweet was sent, explosions and gunfire were heard coming from the print-works. At 11:13 a.m. Eastern time, Sky News in the UK reported that ambulances were driving towards the print-works. Around ten minutes later, French TV began to report that the Kouachi brothers were dead.
The Guardian reports that there are “tens of thousand of French troops have joined the police hunt.” The small rural towns of Longpont and Villers-Cotterets have been besieged by troops and military equipment as the search goes on. Police were first led to the area when it was reported that the brothers had robbed a gas station around 70 miles north-east of Paris.
As news that the brothers are dead filters through, the hostage situation is over at the kosher supermarket in the neighborhood of Porte de Vincennes, on the eastern edge of Paris. One of the hostage takers, Amedy Coulibaly, 32, was said to be a friend of the Kouachi brothers and is the suspect in the shooting of a French policewoman in southern Paris on January 8. Coulibaly has been killed by French anti-terror police. Four of his hostages were also killed.
Couibaly’s alleged accomplice has been named as 26-year-old female terror suspect Hayat Boumedienne.
2. His Death Comes on the Same Day His Terrorist Mentor, Abu Hamza, Was Sentenced to Live in Prison
The Associated Press reported in 2008 that Cherif Kouachi had been sentenced to three years in prison in Paris for helping to funnel prospective jihadi fighters from France to Iraq. He served 18 months, with the remainder of his sentence was suspended. In that case, Cherif was named as a member of the 19th arrondissement network, named for the mainly North African neighborhood where they were based.
The New York Times first reported on Cherif in 2005. It was reported that he had become inspired to fight in jihad due to the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses. Prior to the emergence of those abuses, the Liberation newspaper reported, Cherif was not a devout muslim. He had girlfriends, smoked and drank alcohol. On January 8, the day after the Charlie Hebdo attack, a rap video apparently featuring Cherif Kouachi appeared:
In addition to his lengthy terrorist career, Cherif was on a no-fly list in the U.S. CNN reports that Cherif had trained with Al Qaeda in Yemen.
The Daily Telegraph in London reports that Cherif Kouachi was a follower of Djamel Beghal, a prominent Al Qaeda recruiter. The newspaper further reports that Cherif was mentored by Abu Hamza, the hook-handed hate preacher who was sentenced to life in prison in New York on terrorism charges on January 9. He had girlfriends, smoked and drank alcohol. AFP reports that one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen “told French TV he was sent and financed by Al Qaeda.”
3. Cherif & Said Kouachi Are Orphaned Sons of Algerian Parents
Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi were born in Paris, raised in the French city of Rennes, and later moved back to Paris, where Cherif worked as pizza delivery man, reports Liberation. The Kouachi brothers were orphaned by their Algerian-immigrant parents as children. A German journalist with the tabloid Bild tweeted this pic, saying it shows the Kouachi brothers together:
4. One of the Kouachi Brother’s Alleged Comrades Is Still in High School
While Cherif is an experienced jihadi, Hamyd Mourad, an alleged accomplice of his, is reported to be just 18 years old. Metro News in Paris reports that he is a student at a high school in Charleville-Mezieres, outside the city of Reims. Later, many of Mourad’s classmates came forward to say that he took no part in the Charlie Hebdo attack because he was in school that day. Hamyd Mourad handed himself over to police without incident in Charleville-Mezieres on January 7 where he remains. He has not been charged.
5. The Kouachi Brothers Were Armed With Rocket Launchers & Assault Rifles
Kouachi and his alleged accomplices were armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers when they stormed the headquarters of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. In total 12 people were killed when the terrorists, described as commandos, fired as many as 50 shots during the daylight attack.
Of the 12 dead, 10 are journalists and two are police officers. Early reports suggest that specific journalists were called out by the gunmen before being shot. One of the police officers was shot at close range as he lay on the street. You can see more raw footage of the attack above.
Several more people were wounded in the attack, with some in critical condition.
French President Francois Hollande, who quickly arrived at the scene of the horror, called the attack one “of exceptional barbarity” and immediately deemed it to be terrorism.
Among the deceased victims are editor Stephane Charbonnier (pen name “Charb“); cartoonist Jean Cabut (pen name “Cabu,“); Georges Wolinski, an 80-year-old famed cartoonist; and economist Bernard Maris.
In 2012, Charbonnier was quoted as saying, “I prefer to die standing than to live on my knees.” He had received numerous death threats in the past and had been living in police protection. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Biard, was in London when the shooting occurred.