Thursday 27 October 2016

The missed warnings that might have prevented attacks

Henry Samuel

Published 08/01/2016 | 02:30

Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Islamic extremists in January of last year. Photo: PA
Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Islamic extremists in January of last year. Photo: PA

Police were warned that one of the 'Charlie Hebdo' gunmen had turned up three months before the attack to say it would be targeted, it has been reported, as French film stars leant their weight to the satirical magazine's anniversary.

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The magazine's release came as fresh details emerged of alleged security failings in the run-up to the attacks, which have prompted the widows of two victims to file criminal complaints.

'Le Canard Enchaîné', the satirical weekly, said three months earlier, a journalist working next to the 'Charlie' offices had phoned one of two policemen tasked with protecting its editor to warn him he had just seen a man in a car outside talking to himself, saying: "That will teach them to criticise the Prophet."

The journalist later recognised the man as Chérif Kouachi, one of the two brothers who carried out the killings. Kouachi asked him: "Are these 'Charlie Hebdo's offices? Is it here they criticise the Prophet?'

He went on: "In any case, we're watching them. You can pass the message on."

The journalist memorised his licence plate and informed the policeman. His superiors confirmed to 'Le Canard' that a police report was compiled, but the information apparently never reached intelligence services, or if it did they failed to follow it up or boost security at the magazine.

Moreover, this entire episode is curiously "missing" from the judicial report on the killings, reported 'Le Canard'.

In another damning revelation, Paris police had several minutes in which they could have warned 'Charlie' staff to barricade themselves into their offices but they failed to link the address to the magazine, 'Le Canard' reported.

Police headquarters were alerted to two people being injured at that address at 11.23am, but failed to realise the building housed 'Charlie Hebdo'. It took the gunmen several "long minutes" more to find the magazine's offices and detonations were only heard there at 11.32am. In that period, 'Le Canard' warned, police had ample time to phone 'Charlie' staff.

Ingrid Brinsolaro, whose police bodyguard husband Franck died while trying to protect the magazine's editor, called security at the office "too light" and a "sieve".

The revelations came as 'Charlie' released a million copies of its special anniversary edition.

Juliette Binoche was among a string of famous French actors offering words of support, jokes or thoughts a year after the Kouachi brothers gunned down eight 'Charlie' staff, including its editor and star cartoonists Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski.

"We are at an impasse where we can't see a way out. No doubt there isn't one, so we must seek inside ourselves and every day take the time to look, to spare a smile or a kind thought," wrote Ms Binoche, who said that "feelings of peace and images of kindness" were the best antidote to "anger and chaos".

Others were more light-hearted. Comic actress Karin Viard wrote: "We won't let these arseholes stop us living. Indeed, I've got one and live quite happily with it."

British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, long under a fatwa himself and who vocally supported 'Charlie' after the attack, is the subject of two cartoons. One declares: "Salman Rushdie is no longer threatened with death."

His wife stands next to him with a bin bag, saying: "So perhaps you can take down the rubbish."

The Prophet Mohammed features in another with the caption: "A year on, mentalities change." Sitting at an easel, pencil in hand, the Prophet says: "I've taken up self portraits."

Isil is lampooned in two cartoons. One shows leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi crying in despair at not being given an op-ed in 'Charlie', while another mocks Isil's "kind gesture" of renewing its subscription to the magazine despite alling on harder financial times.

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