French officials face tough scrutiny on missed red flags

IRBIL, Iraq — The terrorist drama that took the lives of 17 people over 55 hours in Paris may force French officials to face tough questions about how its intelligence agencies interact with one another.

With the French comparing the events of the past few days — the worst terrorist attack in the country in more than 50 years — to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, French officials must confront a question similar to one American officials faced in 2001: How had a vast national security apparatus failed to head off a plot that had been hatched seemingly under the noses of the organizations charged with preventing such crimes?

Not only were the main suspects in Wednesday’s murders of 12 people at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo known jihadists, one of whom had been jailed and both of whom were on the U.S. no-fly list, but the newspaper also was known to be a likely al-Qaida target where police officers had been stationed to prevent an attack.

Yet French officials missed the plot.

Red flags were many.One of the attackers, Cherif Kouachi, had been jailed at least twice since 2005 as part of a Paris jihadist cell that funneled Islamist fighters to Iraq to fight U.S. troops there. The other, Said Kouachi, traveled to Yemen in 2011 to train alongside the group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which by that time was known as al-Qaida’s most dangerous wing.

Al-Qaida says it directed attack on French magazine

CAIRO – Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula directed the attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris “as revenge for the honor” of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, a member of the group told The Associated Press on Friday. If confirmed, the attack would be the first time al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen has successfully carried out an operation in the West after at least two earlier attempts.

European leaders to arrive in Paris to show solidarity

PARIS — European leaders will travel to Paris on Sunday to show their solidarity with the French people after two terrorist attacks this week in the capital.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Italy’s Matteo Renzi and Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy were among the leaders saying they would join the silent march for national unity on French President Francois Hollande’s invitation.

– From news service reports