Paris gunman Coulibaly 'was with five others in Madrid'

MADRID (AFP) - Amedy Coulibaly, one of the three gunmen behind last week's Paris attacks, drove five people to Madrid in early January to catch a plane to Turkey, a Spanish anti-terrorism source said on Friday.

Among the five was Mehdi Sabry Belhoucine and his brother, Mohamed, who has already been convicted of terrorism-related offences in France, as well as Coulibaly's partner, Hayat Boumeddiene, the source told AFP.

"We think they travelled from Paris, going to Madrid-Barajas (airport), without stopping - Coulibaly, Hayat, the Belhoucine brothers, and Mohamed Belhoucine's wife and son."

The five people flew to Turkey on Jan 2 with tickets bought over the Internet, the source added.

Mohamed Belhoucine, a 27-year-old former engineering student, was arrested in May 2010 and sentenced to two years in prison for membership in a cell that sent Islamic militants to a Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

He left jail in June 2014.

A French police source said earlier that Mohamed Belhoucine was already in Syria, where Hayat Boumeddiene joined him.

Boumeddiene was seen arriving at an airport in Istanbul accompanied by his younger brother, Mehdi.

According to Spanish daily El Mundo, Hayat Boumeddiene boarded a flight to Istanbul on Jan 2 at 2.25pm.

Mohamed Belhoucine and his partner boarded another flight to Istanbul a few hours later with a child, the newspaper added.

Investigators have not found any trace of a hotel reservation for the group, the Spanish anti-terrorism source said, confirming media reports.

The authorities have been focusing on the lack of a hotel reservation, as it could be a sign that they stayed with a support cell in Spain with the capacity to act locally.

Coulibaly was shot dead by police after he killed four Jewish men in a siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris on Jan 9.

A Spanish high court judge who specialises in terrorism cases opened a preliminary investigation on Thursday into Coulibaly's stay in Madrid.