Amedy Coulibaly, attacker of kosher supermarket in Paris.
(photo credit: TWITTER)
Amedy Coulibaly, the hostage taker who killed four people and wounded four others in a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday, called BFM-TV before he died to claim allegiance to Islamic State, saying he wanted to defend Palestinians and target Jews.
Coulibaly said he had jointly planned the attacks with the Kouachi brothers, who were responsible for the bloody attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday. Police confirmed they were all members of the same Islamist cell in northern Paris.
Police had already been hunting 32-year-old Coulibaly along with a 26 year-old woman after the killing on Thursday of a policewoman. The woman, Hayat Boumeddiene, remains on the run.
An audio recording posted on YouTube attributed to a leader of the Yemeni branch of al Qaida (AQAP) said the attack in France was prompted by insults to prophets but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the assault on the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
Sheikh Hareth al-Nadhari said in the recording, "Some in France have misbehaved with the prophets of God and a group of God's faithful soldiers taught them how to behave and the limits of freedom of speech."
"Soldiers who love God and his prophet and who are in love with martyrdom for the sake of God had come to you," he said in the recording, the authenticity of which could not immediately be verified.
A Yemeni journalist who specialises in al Qaida said it was clear that AQAP had provided a "spiritual inspiration" for the attack on the newspaper offices, but there was no clear sign that it was directly responsible for the assault.
Following heavy loss of life over three consecutive days, which began with the attack on Charlie Hebdo when 12 people were shot dead, French authorities are trying to prevent a rise in vengeful anti-immigrant sentiment.
Hollande denounced the killing of the four hostages at the kosher supermarket in the Vincennes district of Paris. "This was an appalling anti-Semitic act that was committed," he said.
Officials said Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said, both in their thirties, died when security forces raided a print shop in the small town of Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, where the chief suspects in Wednesday's attack had been holed up. The hostage they had taken was safe, an official said.
Automatic gunfire rang out, followed by blasts and then silence as smoke could be seen billowing from the roof of the print shop. Amid thick fog, a helicopter landed on the building's roof, signalling the end of the assault. A government source said the brothers had emerged from the building and opened fire on police before they were killed.
Before his death, one of the Kouachi brothers told a television station he had received financing from an al Qaeda preacher in Yemen.
"I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by Al Qaida of Yemen. I went over there and it was Anwar al Awlaki who financed me," he told BFM-TV by telephone, according to a recording aired by the channel after the siege was over.
Al Awlaki, an influential international recruiter for al Qaida, was killed in September 2011 in a drone strike. A senior Yemeni intelligence source earlier told Reuters that Kouachi's brother Said had also met al Awlaki during a stay in Yemen in 2011.
Altogether 17 victims have died along with the three hostage-takers since Wednesday. France plans a unity rally to protest on Sunday against the attacks. Among those who plan to attend are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Ministers David Cameron of Britain, Matteo Renzi of Italy and Mariano Rajoy of Spain, and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
President Barack Obama also expressed U.S. support. "I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow," he said.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder joined the condemnations, saying "Jewish life in France is under threat if terror does not stop".
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