Paris shooting: Who's behind the attacks?

The assailants in the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the supermarket siege knew each other, and had coordinated their attacks.

Here's a look at how their background, and how they were linked:

Cherif Kouachi, 32

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Born to Algerian parents and orphaned at a young age, Cherif and his older brother Said - the duo behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre on Jan 7 - grew up in an orphanage in the western city of Rennes.

He delivered pizzas in Paris, and dreamt of becoming a rap star. Featured in a 2005 documentary about France's extremist youth, Cherif, 22 years old at that time, was portrayed as being more interested in girls than religion. In the video, he was seen dancing and rapping, dressed in a sweatshirt, baggy jeans and a baseball cap worn backwards.

He then fell under the sway of Farid Benyettou, a self-proclaimed spiritual leader. He began going to prayer classes, started watching Jihadist videos and grew his beard.

He was arrested in France in 2005 just as he was about to leave for Syria. His eventual destination was Iraq, where he hoped to fight in a militant cell. He was convicted three years later and released in 2008 for time served. 

After his release, he found a job selling fish at a supermarket, while renewing contacts with his old comrades. He was linked to, but never prosecuted for a plot to free a jailed Islamist militant. French anti-terror prosecutor Jean- Louis Bruguiere thought he was "small fry" when he popped up on their radar years ago, but he told Bloomberg: "The silent ones are those who go rogue".

Said Kouachi, 34

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Said Kouachi had no previous convictions, but French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve told the New York Times it appears that he was the driving force behind the massacre.

He laid low, though he was linked to the cases involving his brother, Cherif.

He went to Yemen for religious studies in 2011. A source said he met Al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al Awlaki in Shabwa. US-born and web-savvy Awlaki was seen as an influential international recruiter to the Al-Qaeda movement and a prominent figure in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group's most active affiliate. He was killed in September 2011 in a drone strike widely attributed to the CIA.

After Said returned to France from Yemen, both brothers appeared to have refrained from any activities that might have drawn the attention of French law enforcement or spy agencies.

Both were listed in two US security databases, a highly classified database containing information on 1.2 million possible counter-terrorism suspects, called TIDE, and the much smaller "no fly" list maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center, an inter-agency unit.

Amedy Coulibaly, 32

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Coulibaly took several people hostage at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Jan 9, the same day police closed in on the Kouachi brothers in Dammartin.

He knew at least one of the brothers, and apparently coordinated with them in launching the attack. "You know who I am and I'm going to keep these hostages until the siege in Dammartin is lifted," he reportedly told police.

He was seen with Charlie Hebdo suspect Cherif Kouachi in 2010 during an investigation into an attempted prison break in France. Coulibaly was convicted for his role and was well-known to anti-terrorist police. According to reports, he was pushed towards extreme Islam by Cherif while the two were in prison together.

He claimed in a brief phone call to French television station BFMTV midway through the supermarket siege that he belonged to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group. Coulibaly also said he had coordinated his hostage-taking with the Kouachi brothers, who claimed separately to BFMTV that they belonged to another fundamentalist group, Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the supermarket.

In a posthumous video released online on Jan 11, a man resembling Coulibaly said he coordinated with the Kouachi brothers who attacked the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Text shown at the start of the video claimed he was also responsible for a car blown up in a Paris street that the authorities have not so far linked to the attacks.

"The brothers of our team, they did Charlie Hebdo,” the man says in the video. "I also went out a bit against the police so that it has more impact. We managed to synchronise to come out at the same time,” he says, wearing a camouflage army vest in this section.

“What we have done is completely legitimate given what they have done. If you attack the caliphate, we will attack you.”

Hayat Boumeddiene, 26

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Identified by police as the girlfriend and suspected accomplice of Coulibaly.

One of seven children to a mother who died when she was six, Boumeddiene was put into foster care with her young siblings because her father, a delivery man, was unable to take care of them. 

She had a religious ceremony in 2009 to "marry" Coulibaly, though such unions are not recognised in France unless preceded by a civil ceremony conducted by local officials. The couple lived in a modest apartment in the poor suburb south of Paris.

Le Parisien newspaper said she lost her job as a cashier because she insisted on wearing the top-to-toe Islamic wear known as a niqab. She accompanied Coulibaly several times to a forest in central southern France to fire a crossbow. Le Monde published several photos of the couple holding up the weapon, with Boumeddiene wearing her niqab.

There was "constant and sustained" communication between Boumeddiene and the girlfriend of Cherif Kouachi, according to Paris's chief prosecutor François Molins, who said "more than 500 calls" were made between the two women in 2014.

Although police had identified Boumeddiene as a suspect in the supermarket siege, reports now claim that she arrived at an Istanbul airport on Jan 2 via Madrid, and crossed into Syria on Jan 8. Those dates would put her in Turkey before the violence in Paris began, and leaving for Syria while the attackers were still on the loose.

Source: AFP, Reuters