French police seek slain terror suspect’s widow

PARIS (AP) — French police on Saturday were hunting the widow of one of the slain suspects in a wave of attacks around Paris, considered dangerous herself and the possible key to helping authorities dismantle what could be a terrorist network.

Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, wed Amedy Coulibaly in an Islamic religious ceremony in July 2009 — a union not recognized by French law. Coulibaly was killed by police Friday, and a circular distributed by French police said Boumeddiene should be considered dangerous and potentially armed.  

Boumeddiene has never been convicted of a crime, officials said, but judicial records obtained by The Associated Press say she was very close to Islamic radicals known to French internal security services, and once posed for a photo in her Islamic veil and holding a crossbow.

The records show that she was also once interrogated by French officials about her reaction to terrorist acts committed by al-Qaida. “I don’t have any opinion,” she answered, according to the records, but immediately added that innocent people were being killed by the Americans and needed to be defended, and that information provided by the media was suspect.

The year she was married, she said, she began wearing a full Islamic veil_a decision, she told her interrogators, that led to losing her job as a cashier. At dusk Friday, Boumeddiene’s 32-year husband was slain by police who stormed a kosher market in eastern Paris and freed the gunman’s hostages. French prosecutors said Coulibaly had killed four people at the grocery.

At virtually the same hour near the Charles de Gaulle airport outside the French capital, two brothers suspected of killing 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper on Wednesday died in a shootout with police.

Francois Molins, the Paris public prosecutor, said Friday that the links between Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers became clearer to authorities after they discovered Boumeddiene and the female companion of one of the Kouachis had exchanged about 500 phone calls.

French authorities want to know more about those calls, and the reason Boumeddiene made them. “We can call this complicity by furnishing of means,” Christophe Crepin, spokesman for the UNSA police union, told AP in an interview. “We must interrogate her so she explains exactly if she did this under influence, if she did it by ideology, if she did it to aid and abet.”

For French authorities, Coulibaly’s widow “is considered as an important witness to whom we must ask questions,” Crepin said. “Since 2010, she has had a relationship with an individual whose ideology has been expressed in violence, and by the execution of poor people who were just doing their shopping in a supermarket.”

In the eyes of French officials, “she is a dangerous woman,” Crepin said. “You must understand we are at war,” he said. “It’s a war against terrorism since Jan. 7 (date of the attack at Charlie Hebdo). We have to take precautions. You must consider her as the companion of a dangerous terrorist who needs to be questioned. If she doesn’t come (to us), she will be found.”

Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

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