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Paris Terror Probe Expands, 6 Things To Know

The situation has largely calmed in France, after a three-day manhunt came to a bloody end on Friday evening with a total of 17 dead on top of the three gunmen killed by the police in the final assaults. Here are Saturday’s key events.

1. FOURTH SUSPECT ON THE RUN The police are still looking for 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who shot a policewoman dead on Thursday and executed four hostages at a kosher shop on the outskirts of Paris on Friday. She was initially thought to have been present at some point during the siege, and at Thursday's killing of the policewoman. But an unnamed police source told Le Figaro that she is now in Syria, having allegedly flown from Madrid to Istanbul on Jan. 2, days before the attacks. According to the Paris prosecutors’ office, there were “constant and sustained” contacts between Coulibaly and Chérif Kouachi, one of the gunmen at Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, via their respective partners. Part of Disneyland Paris was evacuated at midday, after a woman falsely claiming to be Boumeddiene shouted from her hotel room that she was going to set off an explosion. The woman was arrested.

2. KOSHER MARKET VICTIMS We now know the names of the four hostages killed during the kosher supermarket siege yesterday in Porte de Vincennes. The victims are four Jewish males, Yoav Hattab, 21, Philippe Braham, in his 40s, Yohan Cohen, 22, and Francois-Michel Saada, in his 60s. The police believe they were killed at the beginning at the hostage situation. Details emerged of how many people who were in the supermarket when the siege began managed to hide in an underground cold room with the help of a Muslim employee from Mali. “When I turned the refrigerated room off, I closed the door and told them to stay calm,” he told reporters.

3. MASS RALLIES As many as 700,000 people participated in marches in France’s main cities, the Interior Ministry said. More rallies are set for Sunday, notably in Paris where foreign leaders including David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Eric Holder, Sergei Lavrov, Petro Poroshenko and many others. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided at the end of the day to attend as well, after wavering throughout much of Saturday. Representatives of most French parties will be there alongside President François Hollande, though it is unclear whether Marine Le Pen and her right-wing Front National party will be there. More than 5,500 troops will be deployed in the region as the whole territory remain on the highest terror alert level.


"Je Suis Charlie" march in the northwestern city of Rouen — Photo: @rimatabtab

4. INVESTIGATION CONTINUES Investigators believe that the attacks carried by the Kouachi brother and Coulibaly were coordinated, but they are still trying to establish if and how they were coordinated. Despite the obvious fact that the gunmen appeared to know what they were doing during the attacks and that they’d been professionally trained, a senior police official told Le Monde that they appeared to have “no long-term plan,” describing their action as “entirely sacrificial.” Investigators are also exploring the link between the Kouachi brothers and al-Qaeda in Yemen, as the organization threatened to carry out more attacks against France.

5. HAMAS CONDEMNS ATTACK Four days after the attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, Palestinian Islamist group Hamas joined its voices to other religious organizations against the killings, saying that “differences of opinion and thought cannot justify murder,” AFP reports. The organization also denounced what it sees as “desperate attempts by Netanyahu to make a connection” between Hamas and “global terrorism.”

6. LE PEN CONTROVERSY Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine Le Pen and former leader of France’s far-right party Front National sparked controversy after saying in his online video blog “I’m sorry, but I’m not Charlie,” denouncing a “manipulation with the complicity of the media.” Although he said he was “affected by the death of fellow Frenchmen,” he added he wouldn’t fight “to defend an anarchist-trostkyist frame of mind.” On Friday, the former nationalist leader had been accused of trying to gain politically from the then unfolding events after he tweeted a picture of his daughter with the words, in English, “Keep calm and vote Le Pen.”

Rally in Toulouse — Photo: @lechatquifouine

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Fight Over Tourist Visa Ban For Russians Is Taking Everyone For A Ride

High on the agenda of the Prague summit of Europe’s foreign ministers this week was a proposal to ban tourist visas for Russians, as punishment for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But it is ultimately a way to change the subject, and recalls Zelensky’s iconic remark after the war began.

Passengers arrive at Sheremetyevo International Airport, Russia

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Anna Akage

It’s not a new question. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called for a ban on tourist visa for Russian soon after the war began, and this week it became the center of the Prague summit of European Union foreign ministers.

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Some European Union nations voiced their support soon after it was mentioned by Zelensky, including former Soviet republics and current Russia neighbors, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They were followed by Finland and the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Poland. Hungary, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus. Germany and France are looking for a compromise that would allow for visas for students, workers of culture and science, as well as people who need entry for humanitarian reason. Perhaps most importantly, however, the U.S. took an unambiguous position against the restrictions.

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