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Thousands March as French Police Hunt for Jihadist Femme Fatale Hayat Boumeddiene

Several thousand people gather to pay tribute to victims of a shooting by gunmen at the office of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a demonstration in Marseille

PARIS — France’s government urged the nation to remain vigilant Saturday, as thousands of security forces try to thwart new attacks and hunt down a suspected accomplice in a rampage by terrorists linked to al Qaeda in Yemen that scarred the nation and left 20 dead.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched Saturday in cities from Toulouse in the south to Rennes in the west to honor the 17 victims of three attackers, killed by police after three days of bloodshed at the offices of a satirical newspaper, a kosher supermarket and other sites around Paris.

The sense of relief was tinged with sorry and worry. In Paris, security forces guarded places of worship and tourist sites, and prepared for what’s likely to be a huge silent march Sunday to show unity against extremists. Two dozen world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, are among the many expected to join.

Authorities are on the hunt for Hayat Boumeddiene. Photo: ZumaPress.com

Authorities are on the hunt for Hayat Boumeddiene.
Photo: ZumaPress.com

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said authorities will do everything to ensure security at the event. Speaking after an emergency meeting called by French President Francois Hollande on Saturday morning, Cazeneuve called for “extreme vigilance,” saying that “given the context, we are exposed to risks.”

Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen said it directed Wednesday’s attack against the publication Charlie Hebdo to avenge the honor of the Prophet Muhammad, a frequent target of the weekly’s satire.

In a sign of the tense atmosphere, a security perimeter was briefly imposed at Disneyland Paris on Saturday before being lifted, a spokeswoman said, without elaborating. Movement around the park was back to normal by early afternoon.

Several thousand people walk behind a banner which reads,” Live Together Free, Equal, and United” during a march in Nantes, France.Photo: Reuters

Cazeneuve said the government is maintaining its terror alert system at the highest level in the Paris region, and said investigators are focusing on determining whether the attackers were part of a larger extremist network.

People hold up signs to pay tribute to the massacre victims in Paris before the French Top 14 rugby match January 7th.Photo: Getty Images

People hold up signs to pay tribute to the massacre victims in Paris before the French Top 14 rugby match January 7th.Photo: Getty Images

Five other people are in custody as part of the investigation, and family members of the attackers are among several given preliminary charges so far.

“You must consider her as the companion of a dangerous terrorist who needs to be questioned. Since 2010, she has had a relationship with an individual whose ideology translates into violence and the execution of poor people who were just doing their shopping in a supermarket.”

—  Christophe Crepin, spokesman for UNSA police union

French radio RTL released audio Saturday of the attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, who seized hostages in the kosher supermarket, in which he lashes out over Western military campaigns against extremists in Syria and Mali. He describes Osama bin Laden as an inspiration.

One of his hostages said on France 2 television Saturday that the gunman told them: “‘Me, I’m not scared of dying. Either I die, or I get a 40-year prison sentence.’” The woman was identified only as Marie, and didn’t show her face.

The focus of the police hunt is on Coulibaly’s widow, Hayat Boumeddiene. Police named her as an accomplice and think she is armed…. (read more)

New York Post

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