(Amedy Coulibaly)
Amedy Coulibaly (Getty Images)

PARIS — Amedy Coulibaly was born in 1982 in the Paris suburb of Juvisy-sur-Orge as the only boy in a family of 10 children, according to French media citing police reports. He spent time in and out of prison starting in 2001, when he was convicted for robbery. French police believe he converted to radical Islam while in prison for armed robbery in 2005, the same time he met Sharif Kouachi in prison, French media reported, citing police investigative files. The two men became devoted followers of Djamel Beghal, a French-Algerian man with ties to al-Qaeda who was convicted of plotting in 2001 to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

When Coulibaly was freed in 2006, he took a  job at a Coca-Cola factory outside Paris. French security services apparently deemed him safe enough to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009, when Coulibaly was reported to have plans to meet with the leader as part of an effort to promote youth employment.

“I’ll enjoy it,” Coulibaly told le Parisien newspaper in July 2009, the day before he was scheduled to meet with Sarkozy. But “in truth, in the cities, with youth, Sarkozy isn’t very popular. But it’s nothing personal. In fact, that’s the case with the majority of politicians,” he said.

Coulibaly was apparently still engaged in quiet militant activity. Just 10 months after his meeting with Sarkozy, police searched his apartment and found 240 rounds of 7.62mm rifle ammunition – the caliber used in most Kalashnikov assault rifles. He told police at the time that he planned to sell the ammunition on the street, not use it himself. Police said Coulibaly tried to break another militant Islamist, Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, out of prison in 2013. Although he was convicted and sentenced in 2013 to five years in prison related to the prison-break attempt, he was released early.