WEARING a bikini on a sunny beach, with her arms wrapped around her partner’s waist, Hayat Boumeddiene looks like any other young girl in love.
Yet the beaming 26-year-old is now France’s most wanted woman after becoming radicalised by the man she would go on to marry.
Described as armed and dangerous, Boumeddiene has been on the run since her husband, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a trainee policewoman on Thursday morning. The following day, he was shot by police after he took about 15 shoppers hostage in a Jewish supermarket.
It is now believed that Boumeddiene was never at the siege. According to France Info radio, the Turkish authorities informed France that she had travelled to Turkey on January 2 via Madrid. She is believed to have crossed over into Syria on January 8.
She had a return ticket dated January 9 but never used it, the radio reported.
Pictures released on Friday showed Boumeddiene in 2010, presumably some time after the beach photo was taken. The bikini is gone, replaced by a full body veil. Kneeling in a forest, she clutches a crossbow, and in one picture aims the weapon at the camera.
The pictures are believed to have been taken while the couple visited Djamel Beghal, a former UK-based al-Qaeda lynchpin who was under house arrest in southern France for terror offences.
Boumeddiene was born in 1988 into an Algerian family of seven in Villiers-sur-Marne. After the death of her mother in 1994, her father Mohamed, a delivery driver, struggled to raise his children. The oldest left the family home and the youngest went into care.
After the death of her mother in 1994, her father, a delivery driver called Mohamed, struggled to raise his children. While the oldest children left the family home, Boumeddiene is believed to have been placed in care.
In her teenage years she reportedly altered her surname to “make it sound more French”. But while working as a cashier she met Coulibaly – a long-time criminal who apparently became a radical Muslim during one of his stints in prison.
Her new partner was the only boy in a family of 10 in Essonne, Île-de-France. He first came to police attention as a 17-year-old delinquent, and convictions for theft, drug offences and armed robbery followed.
Later, he was employed as a temporary worker at a Coca-Cola factory and reportedly met then-president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009. By then, Boumeddiene was becoming increasingly radical in her views. She insisted on wearing the top-to-toe Islamic niqab, which led to the loss of her cashier job.
In July that year, the couple married in a religious ceremony not recognised by the state, and they lived in a modest flat in Bagneux, a poor suburb of Paris. After his latest stint behind bars, Coulibaly moved back in with her in May last year.
The pair were known as devoutly religious. Neighbours have said they were quiet, respectful and “normal”, and had even gone on a holiday to Malaysia together. But last month, without warning, they disappeared. The next time neighbours saw the couple was when their pictures were flashed around the world.
About a year ago, just before she went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Boumeddiene was reconciled with her father. On Saturday he was being questioned by police, and a friend said he was “in shock”.
It has emerged that she and her husband had been in close, regular contact with radical militants, including the brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, for years.
Both wives of the dead brothers were arrested yesterday, as investigators tried to piece together where Boumeddiene might be hiding. Le Parisien reported that she had been in regular phone contact with Chérif’s wife, Izzana Hamyd. Phone records show the two women had spoken more than 500 times in 2014.
The extent of their contact will be seen as further evidence the wave of attacks was highly-coordinated and pose more questions over how the French security services missed such a large plot.
Yet Boumeddiene never made a secret of her fanatical views. Interviewed in 2010 by counter-terrorism officers over Coulibaly’s involvement in an attempt to free Paris bomber Smaïn Aït Ali Belkacem from jail, she refused to condemn al-Qaeda attacks.
When told that the authorities knew she and Coulibaly had visited Djamel Beghal at the same time as Chérif Kouachi and two other convicted terrorists, she replied: “We went there for crossbow practice.”
Police are now investigating whether Coulibaly was also the man behind a gun attack on Wednesday that left a jogger in a critical condition. The assault in Fontenay-aux-Roses took place on the same day as the Charlie Hebdo massacre, near where Coulibaly and Boumeddiene lived.
Ruth Dudley Edwards
It was just as well that defender of the Irish underclass Jonathan Swift didn't have social media to contend with when, in 1729, he suggested the poor might breed babies for food. "A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled" would have set off a slavering Twitter mob.
Charlie Hebdo Attacks
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will join European Union leaders in Paris tomorrow at a unity rally to show support for the French government after horrific terror attacks brought the country to a standstill this week.
Algeria: that was the political obsession when I was a young student in France back in the 1960s. All the political thinkers and activists we admired were champions of an independent and free Algeria - freed from French colonial dominance, and marching towards the sunny uplands of a liberated, secular, republican future. Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, glamorous movie stars like Simone Signoret appeared in street marches in solidarity with the new Algeria, and against those reactionaries and old colonialists who argued otherwise. We students read and admired Frantz Fanon, the Afro-French liberationist philosopher.
Charlie Hebdo Attacks
If anything, the attack on the irreverent magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people in Paris on Wednesday, will bolster satire in France, a country with a tradition of political caricature that goes back to the French revolution.
Charlie Hebdo Attacks
Twelve years ago, one of the two brothers suspected of the shootings at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was a young man like many others in France, more interested in girls and smoking dope than defending the Prophet Mohammad.
Charlie Hebdo Attacks
Like most cartoonists I was shocked by the horrific shootings in Paris. Despite previous attacks on artists involved in the Danish cartoon controversy, it was the last thing we expected. But in hindsight it did not come out of the blue.
When Ronald Reagan was receiving treatment in hospital after being shot, he reportedly quipped to medical staff that he hoped they weren't Democrats. To which the doctor in charge famously replied: "Today, Mr President, we're all Republicans."