Reuters reports: Twelve years ago, one of the two brothers suspected of the shootings at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was a young man like many others in France, more interested in girls and smoking dope than defending the Prophet Mohammad.
But between 2003, when Cherif Kouachi delivered pizzas and dreamed of being a rap star, and Wednesday, when he and his brother were named chief suspects in the killing of 12 people in Paris, the French national went from punk to most wanted.
Kouachi, 32, is being sought along with his older brother Said, 34, in a manhunt following what President Francois Hollande called a terrorist attack of “exceptional barbarism” against journalists and two police officers.
How Kouachi – described as a “pipsqueak” by his lawyer during a 2005 trial for involvement in a cell sending young French volunteer fighters to Iraq – started down the road to radicalism is a story becoming increasingly familiar in France and elsewhere in the West.
Questions are already being raised over how an ex-convict known to intelligence services for his radical leanings could have been able to carry out Wednesday’s massacre.
Born in eastern Paris to Algerian parents who died when the brothers were still children, Kouachi grew up in an orphanage in the western city of Rennes. Armed with a sports teacher diploma, Kouachi returned to Paris and delivered pizzas to get by.
“He was part of a group of young people who were a little lost, confused, not really fanatics in the proper sense of the word,” his ex-lawyer Vincent Ollivier, told Liberation daily. “He hadn’t really given any great thought to Islam and didn’t seem all that determined.”
In a 2005 France 3 documentary, which includes footage taken by a Paris community center, Kouachi is seen rapping in English, in jeans and a baggy sweatshirt, a baseball hat worn backwards on his head.
Despite a record for selling drugs and minor theft, he is described as someone more interested in pretty girls and music than the Koran. But that was before he met Farid Benyettou. [Continue reading…]