An Islamic leader and suspected in Charlie Hebdo newspaper attack Boubaker el-Hakim killed in Syria by US airstrike, U.S. military officials said Friday. The 33-year-old terrorist was a hardcore mentor to the brothers who gunned down cartoonists at the French paper in January 2015.
He was arrested in Syria and sent to France, where he was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to seven years in prison. He was considered at the time to be among the most radicalised of the network of young extremists from the Paris area, which included the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi.
The Kouachi brothers led police on a two-day manhunt after attacking Charlie Hebdo, then hid out in a printing plant. Police surrounded the building, and the brothers were killed in a shootout after a daylong siege.
At the same time, another attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, was taking more hostages in a kosher supermarket in Paris. He was also killed when police raided the store. The attacks that week on Charlie Hebdo, police and the kosher market killed 17 people. Released from prison in early 2011, el-Hakim is believed to have moved to Tunisia, where he claimed responsibility in 2014 for the assassinations of two political figures.
By then, he was high up in Islamic State’s ranks and was believed to play a role in the group’s external operations. Soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, el-Hakim wound up in a network of French jihadis and fought with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.