Prosecutors have announced a formal investigation into two men with ties to the killer of five people in Paris in January. Authorities cited hundreds of texts between the men and regular meetings as evidence.
Prosecutors have sought charges against two associates of Amedy Coulibaly, who killed five people in January, with terrorist conspiracy. Thirty-three-year-old Amar R., who had allegedly met Coulibaly in prison, exchanged 600 texts with him over four months and met him 10 times, "in particular on January 5 and 6," according to the prosecutor's office. The series of attacks around Paris took place from January 7 to January 9.
In French law, the opening of a formal investigation is a key step en route to a formal trial - an investigative magistrate will now assess whether the prosecution's evidence submitted so far constitutes grounds for a full trial.
On Friday, prosecutors said that traces of 25-year-old Said M.'s DNA had been found on a taser used by Coulibaly in the kosher supermarket. He had kept regular contact with Amar R., and both men apparently destroyed their mobile phone SIM cards on January 9 - the day of the supermarket attack.
Said M. and Amar R. had contacted each other more than 1,200 times between February 2014 and January 2015 and met regularly, the prosecutor said.
On Monday, officers arrested two more people, including a policewoman Amar R. had dated, but have released her and another suspect without charges so far.
Paris under siege
Two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, killed 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7. The next day, Coulibaly killed a policewoman and then his siege of a kosher supermarket in Paris left four of his hostages dead on January 9. That same day, police killed the two brothers in a standoff and Coulibaly at the supermarket.
In a video, Coulibaly claimed allegiance to the "Islamic State," but it remains unknown who edited and released the footage on the Internet after his death. His wife left France days before the attacks - authorities believe for Syria.
The Kouachis claimed the attacks for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, where one of the brothers may have traveled for paramilitary training with the terror group. Prosecutors have yet to charge anyone with ties to the brothers. Investigators continue trying to unravel how the three men orchestrated the attacks - and whether they had help - in the months since Coulibaly's release from prison and the end of authorities' surveillance of the brothers.
After the attacks, French authorities announced new measures to combat terrorism. Police also arrested several people who expressed support for the attacks. An Islamic monitoring group announced that in the aftermath of the shootings violence against Muslims increased in France.
The kosher market could reopen Sunday for the first time since the attacks. The printing office where the Kouachi brothers holed up for hours before coming out shooting at police remains closed.
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)