NZ Herald 9 January 2015
Like the Boston bombing in 2013, the Charlie Hebdo massacre has become a tale of two brothers. The chief suspects, Cherif, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, were said to be on the run last night in countryside 128km north-east of Paris.
The brothers are French. They were born in Paris, a few blocks from the scene of Wednesday’s savage attack. As small boys they were abandoned by their Algerian-born parents and brought up in a children’s home in Brittany.
Cherif, especially, was well-known to French security. He has served two periods in prison after being linked to an Islamist network that sent fighters to Iraq from 2003-06.
Despite reports to the contrary, he does not appear to have fought, or received training, abroad. Although still under surveillance, he was regarded by French internal security as a low risk “has-been”.
Said, though older, has always been in Cherif’s shadow. He had never been seen as any sort of threat.
All French security’s efforts have been focused in recent months – with some success – on preventing domestic acts of terror by jihadis returning from Iraq and Syria. These men, mostly in their teens or twenties, are often recent recruits to the cause and, in some cases, recent converts. Chérif, and therefore Said, were overlooked as they belonged to a previous generation of home-grown extremists.