France: Terror Funding, Attack Weapons Came From Abroad

French national Assembly in Paris, Tuesday Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

French national Assembly in Paris, Tuesday Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

PARIS -- France will seek tighter surveillance of convicted extremists, the country's prime minister announced Tuesday as reports emerged that the arsenal of weapons used by a terror cell to kill 17 people around Paris came from abroad.

In a rousing, indignant speech, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said "serious and very high risks remain" and warned the French not to let down their guard. He called for new surveillance of imprisoned radicals and told the interior minister to come up with new security proposals shortly.

Several people are being sought in relation to the "substantial" financing of the three gunmen behind the terror campaign, said Christophe Crepin, a French police union official. The gunmen's weapons stockpile came from abroad, and the size of it plus the military sophistication of the attacks indicated an organized terror network, he added.

"This cell did not include just those three, we think with all seriousness that they had accomplices, because of the weaponry, the logistics and the costs of it," Crepin said. "These are heavy weapons. When I talk about things like a rocket launcher - it's not like buying a baguette on the corner, it's for targeted acts."

French police say as many as six members of the terrorist cell that carried out the Paris attacks may still be at large, including a man seen driving a car registered to the widow of one of the gunmen. The country has deployed 10,000 troops to protect sensitive sites, including Jewish schools and synagogues, mosques and travel hubs.

While French authorities worked to trace the source of the weapons funding, a Bulgarian prosecutor announced that a Frenchman already in custody had ties to Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo newspaper massacre that left 12 people dead last week.

The man, identified by French prosecutors as Joachim Fritz-Joly, was arrested Jan. 1 as he tried to cross into Turkey. He was facing two European arrest warrants, one citing his alleged links to a terrorist organization and a second for allegedly kidnapping his 3-year-old son and smuggling him out of the country, said Darina Slavova, the regional prosecutor for Bulgaria's southern province of Haskovo.

"He met with Kouachi several times at the end of December," Slavova said. The child was sent back to his mother in France.

At a hearing in Haskovo on Tuesday, authorities decided to keep Fritz-Joly in custody until another hearing to determine whether he will be extradited to France. The Frenchman told the court he had known Cherif Kouachi since childhood.

"A man can have friends and they can do whatever they want, but I am simply going on vacation and have nothing to do with it," he told the court.

While Kouachi and his older brother, Said, killed 12 at the satirical paper's offices on Jan. 7, their friend, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a French policewoman Thursday and four hostages Friday in a Paris kosher grocery. All three claimed ties to Islamic extremists in the Middle East - the Kouachis to al-Qaida in Yemen and Coulibaly to the Islamic State group - and all three died Friday in clashes with French police.

Authorities were searching around Paris for the Mini Cooper registered to Hayat Boumeddiene, Coulibaly's widow, who Turkish officials say is now in Syria. French police also want to find the person or persons who shot and posted a video of Coulibaly explaining how the attacks in Paris would unfold.

The three attackers have known each other since at least 2005, when Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi were jailed together.

Earlier in the day, in ceremonies thousands of miles apart, France and Israel paid tribute to the victims of the terror attacks.

At police headquarters in Paris, French President Francois Hollande paid tribute to the three police officers killed in the attacks, placing Legion of Honor medals on their flag-draped caskets.

Hollande vowed that France will be "merciless in the face of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim acts, and unrelenting against those who defend and carry out terrorism, notably the jihadists who go to Iraq and Syria."

In a sign that French judicial authorities were using laws against defending terrorism to their fullest extent, a man who had praised the terror attacks in a rant while resisting arrest on a drunk driving violation was swiftly sentenced to four years in prison.

As Chopin's funeral march played in central Paris and the caskets draped in French flags were led from the building, a procession began in Jerusalem for the four Jewish victims at the kosher store.

"Returning to your ancestral home need not be due to distress, out of desperation, amidst destruction, or in the throes of terror and fear," said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Defying the bloodshed and terror of last week, a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad is to appear Wednesday on the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, weeping and holding a placard with the words "I am Charlie." Above him is emblazoned: "All is forgiven" - a phrase one writer said meant to show that the survivors of the attacks forgave the gunmen.

"I think that those who have been killed, if they were here, they would have been able to have a coffee today with the terrorists and just talk to them, ask them why they have done this," columnist Zineb El Rhazoui told the BBC.

Charlie Hebdo, which lampoons religion indiscriminately, had received threats after depicting Muhammad before, and its offices were firebombed in 2011.

France's main Muslim organization called for calm, fearing that a new Muhammad cartoon could re-ignite passions.

BY LORI HINNANT AND ANGELA CHARLTON - Jan 13, 12:33 PM ESTAP

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Associated Press writers John-Thor Dahlburg, Jamey Keaten and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny in Paris, Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed.

 
 

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