LONDON — The widow of one of the assailants in last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris says she is being sheltered by the Islamic State in Syria, according to a purported interview in an online magazine posted Thursday by the militant group.
The claimed comments by Hayat Boumeddiene, who was married to attacker Amedy Coulibaly, appear to back up reports from authorities that she had reached Syria from Turkey during the bloodshed in Paris.
Coulibaly took more than a dozen hostages at a kosher supermarket Jan. 9 and killed four of them. He was shot dead when the market was stormed as part of a simultaneous police assault that killed two other attackers who had carried out deadly attacks on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo two days earlier.
Boumeddiene has been placed on the most-wanted list of all European intelligence services. Officials believe that she may have crucial information about a broader network behind the Paris plot.
Records show more than 500 calls last year between her phone and that of the wife of Chérif Kouachi, one of two brothers who attacked Charlie Hebdo.
The interview in the Islamic State’s English-language magazine Dabiq quotes Boumeddiene as urging Muslim women to study the faith and support their husbands.
Boumeddiene, who was identified as Umm Basir al-Muhajirah (the Female Immigrant), was quoted as describing Coulibaly as a supporter of the Islamic State and saying “his eyes shined” when he saw videos from the militants.
He asked to be shielded from the videos, however, so that he would not be tempted to travel to Syria or Iraq before he could carry out his attacks at home.
“When he would watch the videos, it would make him want to perform hijrah immediately and that would have conflicted with his intent to carry out the operations in France,” she purportedly said. “Hijrah” is the term the Islamic State uses to refer to immigration to its territory.
Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for helping fund and plan the Charlie Hebdo attacks but announced no direct links to Coulibaly.
A video of Coulibaly swearing allegiance to the Islamic State emerged after his death. In addition to the three attackers, 17 people were killed during the three days of violence in Paris.
Boumeddiene, 26, traveled from Spain to Turkey on Jan. 2 — days before the Islamist gunmen stormed Charlie Hebdo. Turkish authorities say she then crossed into Syria on Jan. 8, the day before Coulibaly’s standoff at the kosher market.
A recent study by the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization estimated that the number of foreign fighters traveling to Iraq and Syria exceeded 20,000. Of those, nearly 4,000 had come from Western Europe.
In Washington, Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, gave similar figures in testimony Wednesday to the House Homeland Security Committee.
European leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday to push plans to try to stanch the flow of suspected militant fighters, including tighter coordination among intelligence agencies.
The latest edition of Dabiq includes an article claiming Koranic justification for burning alive a captured Jordanian pilot, who the militants said incinerated homes and people with airstrikes. A video showing the pilot’s gruesome death was posted last week.
Another piece in the magazine was purportedly written by British journalist John Cantlie, who has been missing in Syria since 2013 and is believed held by the Islamic State. In the piece, Cantlie, who has narrated Islamic State propaganda videos, blames Western policies for Muslim anger and says he will speak out as long as his captors allow “me to live.”
“The truth of the matter, for anyone who is interested, is that I’m making the most of my situation,” the article says.
Murphy reported from Washington.