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Hunt For Terrorist's Wife As More Attacks Feared

Sky News logo Sky News 10/01/2015
Hayat Boumeddiene. Pic: Paris police © Other Hayat Boumeddiene. Pic: Paris police

Police are hunting for the wife of one of the three gunmen who brought three days of terror to France, saying she may be "armed and dangerous".

Hayat Boumeddiene, a suspect in the murder of a Paris policewoman on Thursday, is on the run after her husband Amedy Coulibaly was killed when armed officers brought his kosher supermarket siege to a violent end.

The 26-year-old could hold the key to the ongoing terror investigation, as police admit they may be dealing with a larger extremist cell and authorities brace for more attacks.

Details are emerging of the young woman of Algerian descent and the links between Coulibaly, 32, and the Kouachi brothers, who were killed two days after murdering 12 people at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo

Boumeddiene reportedly started wearing a burkha in May 2009 after meeting Coulibaly and quit her job as a cashier before marrying him in a religious ceremony later that year.

According to French judicial documents, the couple travelled with Cherif Kouachi and his wife in 2010 to central France to visit radical Islamist Djamel Beghal, who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for terror offences.

The pair posed for photos during the visit, taking selfies and a snap of Boumeddiene pointing a crossbow at the camera.

Interviewed that year by counter-terrorism officers over Coulibaly's involvement in an attempt to free Paris bomber Smain Ait Ali Belkacem from jail, she was open about her fanatical views.

According to Le Nouvel Observateur, she refused to condemn al Qaeda attacks, preferring to criticise America's military interventions around the world and the western media.

The links between the couple and the Kouachi's apparently thrived, with Paris prosecutor Francois Molins revealing Boumeddiene and the wife of one of the brothers exchanged more than 500 phone calls in 2014.

A police search of Coulibaly's residence in 2010 turned up a crossbow, 240 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, films and photos of him during a trip to Malaysia, and letters seeking false official documents.

In a police interview that same year, Coulibaly identified Cherif Kouachi as a friend he had met in prison and said they saw each other frequently, according to a transcript of the interview obtained by the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

According to the newspaper, he told the police that people he met in prison used the nickname "Dolly" for him.

He was employed as a temp worker at a Coca-Cola factory and reportedly met then-President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009.

"I know a lot of criminals because I met heaps of them in detention," he is quoted as telling the police.

Michel Thooris, secretary-general of France's police union, said he did not believe the men behind the Paris attacks were "three people isolated in their little world."

"This could very well be a little cell," he said.

"There are probably more than three people," he added, given that Cherif Kouachi and Coulibaly had had contacts with other jihadist groups in the past.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking in a TV interview late on Friday, also indicated authorities are bracing for the possibility of new attacks.

"We are facing a major challenge" and "very determined individuals," he said.

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