WEARING a bikini on a sunny beach, with her arms wrapped around her partner’s waist, Hayat Boumeddiene looks like any other young girl in love. Yet the beaming 26-year-old is now France’s most wanted woman after becoming radicalised by the man she would go on to marry.
Described as armed and dangerous, Boumeddiene has been on the run since her husband, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a trainee policewoman on Thursday.
The following day, he was shot by police after he took about 15 shoppers hostage in a Jewish supermarket.
It is now believed that Boumeddiene was never at the siege. According to France Info radio, the Turkish authorities informed France that she had travelled to Turkey on January 2 via Madrid. She is believed to have crossed over into Syria on Thursday.
She had a return ticket dated for Friday but never used it, the radio reported.
Boumeddiene was born in 1988 into an Algerian family of seven in Villiers-sur-Marne.
After the death of her mother in 1994, her father, a delivery driver called Mohamed, struggled to raise his children. While the oldest children left the family home, Boumeddiene is believed to have been placed in care.
While working as a cashier she met Coulibaly – a longtime criminal who apparently became a radical Muslim during one of his stints in prison.
The pair were known to be devoutly religious. Neighbours have said they were quiet, respectful and “normal”.
But last month, without warning, they disappeared. The next time neighbours saw the couple was when their pictures were flashed around the world.
It has emerged that she and her husband had been in regular contact with radical militants, including the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, for years.
Both wives of the dead brothers have been arrested as investigators try to piece together where Boumeddiene might be hiding.
Le Parisien reported that she had been in regular phone contact with Cherif’s wife, Izzana Hamyd. Phone records show the two women had spoken more than 500 times last year.
– Bill Gardner