Eighteen-year-old Hamyd Mourad has been named, along with Cherif and Said Kouachi, as one of three suspects in the Charlie Hebdo terror attack, which killed 10 journalists and two policemen. While Mourad has been described as the suspected getaway driver, there is a movement proclaiming his innocence.
According to French news sources, Mourad has turned himself in to authorities in his home town, Charleville-Mezieres, and is being held but not charged. Meanwhile the Kouachi brothers — the suspected gunmen who carried out the carnage — remain at large.
Here’s what we know about Mourad:
1. Students Say They Saw Him in Class on the Day of the Attack
According to French news sources, Mourad is in his last year of high school in Charleville-Mezieres, close to the city of Reims.
Local students, using the Twitter hashtag #MouradHamydInnocent, proclaim they saw him in class on the day of the attack and that his implication as a suspect is absurd.
The above tweet, via this Reported.ly Storify post, is roughly translated: “In my high school I saw that smile this morning as usual. He would never. Please support.” Another person wrote, “Imagine that you went to class with your mate, and then in the evening he is accused of [talking part in] the attack. Please retweet #MouradHamydInnocent.”
In an interview with the AFP, a classmate of Mourad’s said the terror suspect was “in high school all morning. There are plenty of witnesses.”
2. His Nationality Is Unknown
The Kouachi brothers are French-born nationals of Algerian Descent, but Mourad’s nationality is unknown. Sky News reports that Mourad, along with Cherif and Said Kouachi, are linked to a “Yemeni terror network.” Linternaute.com in France reports that cops linked the three suspects to the crime after Said Kouachi left his passport in the getaway car. In the aftermath of the attack, witnesses said that they heard the terrorists make reference to the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida.
3. Charlie Hebdo Journalists Were Called Out by Name Before Being Executed
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.
4. One of the Other Suspects Is a Convicted Terrorist
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, another 18 months 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.
5. The Kouachi Brothers Are Hiding Out in a Forest the Size of Paris
The two brothers are believed to be hiding north of Paris in a large wooded area. 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. The latest information is that the two brothers have taken hostages inside of a print-works close to the wooded area, the brothers are reportedly prepared to die as martyrs.
As the search for the brothers goes on, a hostage situation is underway at a kosher supermarket in the neighborhood of Porte de Vincennes, on the eastern edge of Paris. One of the hostage takers, Amedy Coulibaly, 32, is 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. His alleged accomplice has been named as 26-year-old female terror suspect Hayat Boumedienne.
French security forces have elevated the terror threat in the country to the highest possible level. La Parisien reported that cops had made raids on homes in Paris and also in the city of Reims related to the Hebdo attack.
Le Figaro in France reported on January 9 that there was a tactical operation under way on a house in Reims involving anti-terror cops. The newspaper reports the goal of the mission was to “arrest the suspects.”