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.
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 said Monday 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 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 travelling through Turkey with a male companion before reportedly arriving in Syria with him on January 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 January 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 travelling companion, a 23-year-old man identified as Mehdy Sabry Belhoucine, toured Istanbul before leaving January 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 January 8 from the border town of Akcakale, where she apparently crossed into Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria, the official said. Their January 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.”