Gotnews.com has independently confirmed that Cherif Kouachi once was a part of a plot to send Muslim fighters to Iraq in 2008.
Kouachi once said he was motivated by alleged prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib.
It appears Kouachi was a disciple of a janitor-turned-Salafist imam Farid Benyettou. Kouachi worshiped at the Addawa mosque in the 19th arrondissement.
Here’s an interview about Benyettou’s efforts to incite jihad for which he was jailed.
Here’s a report in French about Benyettou and his connections to Al-Qaeda.
Here’s how the Associated Press described it in 2008:
The key concern for French police is not where the fighters go but what they do when they come back to France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, nearly 10 percent of its 62 million people.
There has been no mention in the Paris trial of any plan to attack French sites, but officials say they remain worried about the possibility and that fear bolsters the prosecutor’s case.
The so-called 19th arrondissement network is named for the Paris district where it was based, a multi-national neighborhood where families with roots in one-time French colonies in North Africa crowd into housing projects that rise above street markets offering Moroccan melons and pungent French cheese.
Frustration among youth of immigrant backgrounds over discrimination and bleak job prospects helped fuel riots in suburban housing projects around France in 2005. That same frustration, defense lawyer Dominique Many said, pushes some toward Islamic extremism.
Benyettou practiced a strict Salafist interpretation of Islam, and enjoyed credibility among radicals because his brother-in-law was a convicted member of an Algerian insurgency movement.
Benyettou exhibited little charisma during the trial, his gaunt frame hunched on the bench, occasionally brushing back his chest-length hair or nudging up his oversized glasses.
But back in the 19th arrondissement, he persuaded by his own admission to investigators about 10 young people to leave France for Iraq. In court, he acknowledged he had had “a role” in helping fighters who wanted to go to Iraq, but said there was no organized network.
“I really believed in the idea,” said one of his students, defendant Cherif Kouachi, 25. He said he was motivated by his outrage at television images of torture of Iraqi inmates at the U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib.
Another alleged member of the group, Peter Cherif, was arrested by U.S. authorities and his mother says he was held in Abu Ghraib. He faces a separate trial in France.
Another, 25-year-old Mohammed El Ayouni, who lost an arm and an eye in 2004 in a U.S. tank shelling near Fallujah, described administering IVs and shots to injured fighters and keeping watch for American troops. He said Iraqi families welcomed the French fighters, preparing their meals and laundering their clothes.