Paris attack: The man behind the mask-Cherif Kouachi

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Paris, Jan 9: One of the two brothers-Cherif Kouachi-suspected in the Charlie Hebdo rampage has a long link to key Islamic State militants. The 32-year old along with his 34-year old brother and his 18-year old brother-in-law is suspected of killing 12 journalists yesterday in Paris. The brothers were born to Algerian parents and were orphaned at a very early age. Thereafter, they grew up in eastern Paris not far from the site of the attack.

Paris shooting

Jihadi links

He has a well-documented history of having links with terror groups. He was part of the "Butte-Chaumont network", named after a park in the 19th Arrondissement of Paris where its members lived. This group helped young, radical Muslims to go to Iraq to join Al Qaeda's fight against US forces during the latter's intervention.

He was 22 when the network was nabbed by the French Police and was arrested just as he was about to fly to Syria in 2005, from where he was to travel to Iraq. Hia lawyer, Vincent Ollivier, told the Pittsburg Tribune that he was not particularly religious. "He drank, smoked pot, slept with his girlfriend and delivered pizzas for a living," the newspaper reported.

During his trial, however, Kouachi said that he was "inspired" by the abuse of the prisoners by the US troops in Abu Ghraib prison, but was happy that he did not have to go through it.

His interests

Not JIhad, at least; that is what he said during an interview. He was interested in rap music and worked at the Supermarket. Nevertheless, he was sent to three years in prison, half of which was suspended. Following this, his contacts with Islamic jihadist groups increased, especially with Smain Ait Ali Belkacem and Djamel Beghal. He was also very close to French-Tunisian Boubaker al-Hakim, who was also a key member of the Butte-Chaumount network. Hakim had rejoined militancy after 7-years in jail and got involved in two high-profile assassination of two secular politicians, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, in Tunisia in 2013.

He is the main link between the IS and Cherif Kouachi. French investigating experts believe that though no terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the IS is closely following the progress.

Jean-Pierre Filiu, a leading expert on radical Islam at Paris's Sciences Po university said,"I am sure that the video claiming responsibility is already prepared. On Thursday, IS radio praised the Charlie Hebdo killers as "heroes"."

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