Did gunmen meet in Alps to plan Paris attacks?

The two brothers behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the gunman who killed four at a Jewish grocery store met in the French Alps two weeks before the attack, according to reports in France on Monday.

Did gunmen meet in Alps to plan Paris attacks?
Did Paris gunmen Said and Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly meet in the French Alps to plan their attacks. Photo: AFP

Counter-terrorist investigators in France are trying to verify a witness report in the French media on Monday that claimed Said and Cherif Kouachi were seen with Amedy Coulibaly near the Alps town of Annecy, just two weeks before they unleashed terror in Paris.

According to France Inter, the witness saw the three together at the end of December, along with Hayat Boumeddiene, Coulibaly’s partner, who authorities believed helped the man plan his attack, before fleeing to Syria.

The report is based on the account of a receptionist at the Annecy-Genevois hospital who claims to have seen the group.

According to the receptionist Coulibaly and his partner first approached her to ask where the accident and emergency ward was located.

And later in the day, a man dressed in a djellaba – the traditional Muslim outfit – approached her and asked what room Boumeddiene was staying in. She is convinced the man was one of the Kouachi brothers.

After the receptionist told him she couldn’t find any record of Boumeddiene at the hospital, he said “perhaps she gave a different name”.

Police now have the job of trying to verify whether or not the four were indeed in Annecy and to find out why they were there.

Their job has been made harder by the fact CCTV images from the hospital are apparently not available because the tapes were destroyed a week later.

Police already know however that the three gunmen did meet up on the eve of the Charlie Hebdo attack, as reported by Le Monde newspaper last month.

Phone records appear to show that Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly met the night before they started three days of violence in and around Paris on January 7th.

They are thought to have met in Gennevilliers, the town near Paris where Kouachi lived.

Around one hour before Cherif Kouachi attacked Charlie Hebdo magazine with his brother Said, a text message was sent from near his home to one of the 13 phone numbers belonging to Coulibaly, the security source said.

Coulibaly claimed in a posthumous video that he had coordinated his attacks with the Kouachi brothers, but it has not been clear to what extent they directly planned together. 


Paris faces poignant Friday 13th six months after attacks

It's been exactly six months since terrorists killed 130 people in Paris, and while the city may have changed and the wounds are still unhealed, the Parisians will be out en force tonight, writes Oliver Gee.

Paris faces poignant Friday 13th six months after attacks
Photo: AFP
Today marks the first six months to very day, Friday November 13th, when jihadists gunned down 130 people in Paris and left 400 more injured. 
The city's residents have had to overcome numerous psychological landmarks since the attacks and the six month anniversary, especially given that it falls on a Friday is another barrier.
Some Parisians, as many did in the days and weeks after the attacks, may think twice before heading out on Friday May 13th.
 “Considering it's Friday the 13th, let's avoid the terraces” was just one message sent to a member of staff at the The Local that may have echoed many people's thoughts in the capital this week.
Even though most of the Paris attackers are dead and the last known surviving suspect has been caught and charged in France, the reality is the terror threat remains and the memories of six months ago still loom large.
While most Parisians have not let their fears change their lives the city still has a slightly different feel.
For one thing, the state of emergency is still underway and has recently been extended for at least a few more months
The tourism industry has taken an almighty whack, with a recent study saying visitor numbers are over 20 percent lower than this time last year. 
Hotels around the city were at around 70 percent occupancy last month, compared to 80 percent in April last year, reported Le Parisien. Many have lowered their rates to become more attractive, yet still can't fill their beds. 
A restaurant union head told the paper that there are fewer people heading out for a bite to eat and that Paris has become “a ghost town” after 10pm.
Meanwhile, the numbers of Asian tourists in town have taken a solid hit, which has been noticed by the big department stores, and museums are suffering similarly, with the Orsay recording an almost ten-percent dip in visitor figures this year compared to 2015. 
Of course, this isn't all just a direct result of the Paris attacks. The Brussels attacks must be taken into account, as the recent staggered school holidays across Europe has meant April wasn't a typical month.
Aside from the tourists, the families of the victims and the injured have been struggling to return to a normal life, with many undergoing counselling for the traumas they have suffered.
Many were angered and upset earlier this week to learn that they were charged with unpaid taxes of their loved ones who had died in the attacks. 
Anger as families sent tax bills for Paris terror attack victims
However, most Parisians have continued to show a brave face, much as they have since the very early days after the attacks. Away from the tourists sites and the hotels, the typical Parisian would tell you that most of the changes from after the terror attacks aren't even noticeable anymore. 
Sure, locals plan ahead for additional security at airports, they expect a (sometimes half-hearted) bag check at large shopping centres, and they're unlikely to even notice the soldiers walking around the streets anymore.
But the restaurants and the cafes that were targeted in the attacks – none of which were major tourist haunts anyway – have all reopened, most removing any signs of flowers or memorials. 
The Carillon bar – where 15 people were shot dead – is overflowing each night as summer approaches, and the prime seats on the terrace of the Bonne Biere are as hard to snag now as they should be. 
And while the Bataclan concert hall remains closed, owners have said it will open in November this year with shows from Pete Doherty and the Senegalese star Youssou N'Dour.
And, in an impressive sign of solidarity, Paris firefighters have been hosting free “life-saving” courses every weekend since the attacks – and the demand remains huge
Yes, life in Paris goes on. 
And while the weather may not be amazing today and some of the wary may hesitate, you can bet your last centime that the terraces of Paris will be packed tonight, just as they should be on any Friday in spring.