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French police investigate whether there was a fourth Paris gunman
French police are investigating whether one of 12 suspects held in connection with the Paris terrorist attacks might have been a "fourth" gunman.
The suspect's DNA has been found on a Tokarev semi-automatic pistol used by Amedy Coulibaly when he attacked the kosher supermarket. The same weapon was also used to shoot and injure a jogger two days earlier on Jan 7.
The eight men and four women in custody were arrested on Friday. They are being questioned over whether they helped the Kouachi brothers, who attacked Charlie Hebdo magazine killing 12 people, and Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman on Jan 8 and four hostages in a Jewish supermarket the following day.
Investigators are trying to establish who shot the jogger, a 32-year-old electrician who is now in a coma. Before losing consciousness, the victim is believed to have described his attacker as being "of European appearance", which would rule out Coulibaly. The motive might have been to test the gun before the terrorist attacks that were to follow.
This is part of a wider inquiry into exactly how Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers obtained their firearms and ammunition, which were worth about £19,000.
Sources in Sarajevo have told The Telegraph that Bosnia was the source of the bullets. The rounds in question were 7.62x39mm, a calibre compatible with the Kalashnikov assault rifles used by the Kouachis and a VZ58 sub-machine gun that appeared in Coulibaly's "martyrdom" video.
Zivko Marjanac, Bosnia's deputy defence minister, confirmed that the ammunition used by the terrorists was manufactured in 1986 by Igman Company, a state-owned factory in the town of Konjic south of Sarajevo. The company is one of the five largest ammunition manufacturers in the world, supplying over 30 countries.
Bullets have been stolen from Igman stockpiles in the past. But Mr Marjanac emphasised that the bullets were produced almost thirty years ago - and it was impossible to establish how they reached France.
"How the ammunition got there is not known - but it was definitely produced in Bosnia. We had a war here. Every other house has 20 bullets hidden inside somewhere," he said.
Bosnia was probably the source of the weapons as well as the ammunition. Experts believe that about 750,000 illegal firearms are still circulating in Bosnia as a legacy of the country's civil war between 1992 and 1995.
Kouachi brothers used an M80 Zolja rocket launcher - commonly used in the Balkans conflict. Coulibaly had obtained a Czech-made VZ58 sub-machine gun, which he displayed in his "martyrdom" video.
"Its shape is symbolic," explained Nicolas Florquin, a senior researcher at the Small Arms Survey. "The shape of the VZ58 looks like the AK-74U that Bin Laden regularly had in the background of his videos. In some illicit markets, as in Lebanon, the AK-74U is actually nicknamed the Bin Laden."
As for how Coulibaly might have obtained this weapon, the semi-automatic version of the VZ58 can be bought legally in France with the right permit. "The possible sources of this weapon are multiple," said Mr Florquin. "He could have stolen it or even borrowed it from a legal owner, or of course bought it on the black market."
In addition, Coulibaly used a Skorpion, a Czech-made gun which stopped being manufactured in 1979, but is still common in the Balkans and circulating among criminal gangs elsewhere in Europe.
Equally common in the Balkans is the Tokarev pistol, which Coulibaly also obtained. Some 2 million of these weapons were made by the Soviet Union.
However, the Kouachi brothers used the AKS-74 Kalashnikov to attack Charlie Hebdo magazine. This assault rifle is less common than its predecessor, the AK-47. Of the Balkan countries, only Bulgaria and Romania have a history of making the AKS-74.
As for how the arsenal reached Paris, Belgian police have confirmed that Coulibaly bought his weapons in Brussels. Last Tuesday, a known arms dealer, Neetin Karasular, handed himself in after seeing Coulibaly's face on television and realising that he had sold him the weapons.
Another line of inquiry is how the attackers managed to pay for their weapons. Given that all three held menial jobs, they are unlikely to have had enough money themselves.
[Source: By David Chazan, Paris and Harriet Alexander, The Telegraph, London, 17Jan15]
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