France’s most-wanted woman: Hayat Boumeddiene

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Paris (AFP) – A crossbow in her hands and covered top-to-toe

in a black Islamic headwear and robe that leaves only her eyes visible
— that is the image now circulating of France’s most-wanted woman: Hayat Boumeddiene.

The 26-year-old is partner to Amedy Coulibaly, one of the three gunmen shot dead by police after three days of mayhem in France.

The
photo, first published by Le Monde newspaper, contrasts with the one
French police issued in its public appeal to locate her following
Friday’s bloody drama, in which Coulibaly was killed by police commandos
after he took hostages in a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

This photo released on January 9, 2015 by the French police shows Hayat Boumeddiene suspected of being involved in the killing of a policewoman in Montrouge on January 8 with another supect Amedy CoulibalyThe
mugshot provided by the police shows a sleepy-eyed young woman, her
face and brown hair showing, whom they had questioned in 2010 about
Coulibaly.

The police notice, however, warns that she is considered “armed and dangerous”.

She
is suspected of being Coulibaly’s accomplice in the murder of a
policewoman in southern Paris on Thursday, during a massive manhunt for
two brothers who a day earlier massacred 12 people at the offices of the
satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
Police
also suspect she might have had a hand in Coulibaly’s supermarket
hostage-taking, though she was not identified among the dead or wounded.
Coulibaly
was a 32-year-old longtime criminal who apparently became a radical
Muslim during one of his frequent stints in prison.
He
claimed in a brief phone call to French television station BFMTV midway
through the supermarket siege that he belonged to the Islamic State
jihadist group.

Coulibaly also said he had coordinated his
hostage-taking with the other two gunmen, brothers Cherif and Said
Kouachi, who claimed separately to BFMTV that they belonged to another
fundamentalist group, Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

– ‘Married’ in 2009 –

Cherif
Kouachi, a 32-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, was said to have
pushed Coulibaly, also a French citizen, towards extreme Islam while the
two were in prison together.
There
was “constant and sustained” communication between Boumeddiene and the
girlfriend of Cherif Kouachi, according to Paris’s chief prosecutor
François Molins, who said “more than 500 calls” were made between the
two women in 2014.

Investigators are now going through telephone
records and wiretaps, and other material seized during searches, to
determine the extent of the complicity and anyone else who might be
connected to the gunmen.

But the focus right now is on Boumeddiene.

Coulibaly moved back in with her in May last year when he was released from his last period behind bars.

One
of seven children to a mother who died when she was six, Boumeddiene
was put into foster care with her young siblings because her father, a
delivery man, was unable to take care of them.

She
had a religious ceremony in 2009 to “marry” Coulibaly, though such
unions are not recognised in France unless preceded by a civil ceremony
conducted by local officials, and the couple lived in a modest apartment
in the poor suburb south of Paris.

Le Parisien newspaper said she
lost her job as a cashier because she insisted on wearing the
top-to-toe Islamic wear known as a niqab.

Boumeddiene accompanied
Coulibaly several times to a forest in central southern France to fire a
crossbow. Le Monde published several photos of the couple holding up
the weapon, with Boumeddiene wearing her niqab.

Her whereabouts are not known, but thousands of police have been deployed to actively search for her.

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