Paris gunmen coordinated attacks via text message

A little over an hour before the Paris attacks last month at the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, one of the gunmen sent a text message to the man who later killed four people at a kosher supermarket, according to a French government official.

 Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers involved in the Hebdo massacre, met with Amedy Coulibaly between midnight and 1:00 am on the eve of the Jan. 7 attack.

The details were contained in leaked documents from the investigation and first published in Le Monde, a French newspaper, on Tuesday, Feb. 17. The report was confirmed by a well-placed government official speaking on condition of anonymity. Le Monde said it was the first time investigators have seen visual proof that the attacks on the Hebdo newspaper offices and the kosher supermarket were linked.

The Kouachi brothers, Cherif and Said, killed 12 people during the newspaper attack around 11:30 am local time. Two days later, Coulibaly killed four hostages at a Paris kosher supermarket while demanding the release of the Kouachi brothers who were being surrounded by police outside the capital. All three suspects were killed in police raids on Jan. 9.

According to the government official, a text message was sent at 10:19 am from the home of Cherif Kouachi in a nearby suburb. The cellphone account only ever sent six messages, apparently opened specifically to coordinate the attack, and was one of 13 phones that Coulibaly was using, according to Le Monde.

Details showed the operation was “a well-coordinated attack,” said Alain Bauer, a professor of criminology at Paris’ National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts. He told NBC News that Coulibaly was also the leader—or “producer”—of the operation.

“Coulibaly decided which weapons to buy, where to get the money, buy the car, scope out the targets and coordinate the attack,” said Bauer, who also advises French authorities in criminology.

Le Monde also reported that the Jan. 7 attack was nearly canceled the day before, because one of the gunmen was sick with the stomach flu.

The Yemen branch of terrorist group al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks. Additionally, Coulibaly also proclaimed his allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a video made before the attacks.

The phone records, however, do not appear to suggest any close links between Coulibaly and ISIS. There has been nothing so far suggesting that he was anything more than a French-born and raised criminal who became radicalized—“probably inside a French prison,” said CBS’ News Clarissa Ward for “60 Minutes.” Coulibaly, who told a CNN journalist of the synchronized attacks with the Kouachi brothers, served time for non-terrorism related crimes.

(With reports from NBC News, CNN, and CBS News.) 

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