Ankara, Jan 12 – Turkey on Monday confirmed that Hayat Boumeddiene, the wanted partner of one of the gunmen behind the terror attacks in France, travelled through Turkey last week on her way to Syria.
“She entered Turkey on January 2 from Madrid. There are images of her at the airport,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Anatolia.
Cavusoglu said the 26-year-old, who married gunman Amedy Coulibaly in an Islamic ceremony, stayed at a hotel in Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul and was accompanied by another person.
She then crossed into Syria on January 8, according to her phone records, Cavusoglu said, without making clear if she travelled to Syria on her own.
A Turkish security source on Saturday had also told AFP that Boumeddiene had entered Turkey on January 2 and was believed to have moved on to the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa and then to Syria.
But Turkey did not arrest her because of a lack of timely intelligence from France, the source said.
Cavusoglu’s comments confirm that Boumeddiene was already outside France when the killing spree began, contrary to earlier speculation that she had been involved in the Paris killings in which 17 people died.
Boumeddiene is suspected of having had a role in her partner attacks which culminated in a bloody hostage-taking in a kosher supermarket on Friday after he had shot dead a policewoman close to a synagogue the day before.
But despite earlier describing her as “armed and dangerous”, French police sources said she was likely already in Turkey at the time of the attacks.
Western countries have long accused Turkey of not doing enough to stem the flow of jihadists seeking to join Islamic State (IS) group fighters in neighbouring Syria.
But Ankara insists it has now stepped up frontier security and has repeatedly said the West also has a responsibility to share intelligence.