PARIS — The weapons used by a terror cell to kill 17 people around Paris came from outside the country and authorities are urgently tracing the source of the financing, a French police official said Tuesday.
Christophe Crepin, a French police union representative, said several people were being sought in relation to the “substantial” financing of the three gunmen, as well as others in their network. He said the weapons stockpile clearly came from abroad and the amount spent shows an organized network.
The news came hours after a Bulgarian prosecutor announced they had a man in custody with ties to one of the brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo newspaper massacre.
French police say as many as six members of the terrorist cell that carried out the Paris attacks may still be at large, including a man seen driving a car registered to the widow of one of the gunmen. The country has deployed 10,000 troops to protect sensitive sites, including Jewish schools and synagogues, mosques and travel hubs.
Earlier in the day, in ceremonies thousands of miles apart, France and Israel paid tribute to the victims of the terror attacks.
At police headquarters in Paris, French President Francois Hollande paid tribute to the three police officers killed in the attacks, placing Legion of Honor medals on their caskets.
“They died so that we could live free,” he said, flanked by hundreds of police officers.
Hollande vowed that France will be “merciless in the face of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslims acts, and unrelenting against those who defend and carry out terrorism, notably the jihadists who go to Iraq and Syria.”
As Chopin’s funeral march played in central Paris and the caskets draped in French flags were led from the building, a procession began in Jerusalem for the four Jewish victims of the attack Friday on a kosher supermarket in Paris.
“Returning to your ancestral home need not be due to distress, out of desperation, amidst destruction, or in the throes of terror and fear,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. “Terror has never kept us down, and we do not want terror to subdue you. The Land of Israel is the land of choice. We want you to choose Israel, because of a love for Israel.”
Defying the bloodshed and terror of last week, a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad is to appear Wednesday on the cover of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, weeping and holding a placard with the words “I am Charlie.” Above him is emblazoned: “All is forgiven” — a phrase one writer said meant to show that the survivors of the attacks forgave the gunmen.
“I think that those who have been killed, if they were here, they would have been able to have a coffee today with the terrorists and just talk to them, ask them why they have done this,” columnist Zineb El Rhazoui told the BBC. “We feel, as Charlie Hebdo’s team, that we need to forgive the two terrorists who have killed our colleagues.”
Two masked gunmen opened the onslaught in Paris with a Jan. 7 attack on the paper, singling out its editor and his police bodyguard for the first shots before killing 12 people in all. Ahmed Merabet, a French Muslim policeman, was one of the victims, killed as he lay wounded on the ground as the gunmen — brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi — made their escape.
Charlie Hebdo, which lampoons religion indiscriminately, had received threats after depicting Muhammed before, and its offices were firebombed in 2011.
France’s main Muslim organization called Tuesday for calm, fearing that a new Muhammad cartoon could inflame passions anew.
Amid the hunt for accomplices, Bulgarian authorities said Tuesday they have a Frenchman under arrest who is believed to have links to Cherif Kouachi, one of the Charlie Hebdo attackers.
Fritz-Joly Joachin, 29, was arrested January 1 as he tried to cross into Turkey, under two European arrest warrants, one citing his alleged links to a terrorist organization and a second for allegedly kidnapping his 3-year-old son and smuggling him out of the country, said Darina Slavova, the regional prosecutor for Bulgaria’s southern province of Haskovo.
“He met with Kouachi several times at the end of December,” Slavova said.
The Kouachi brothers and their friend, Amedy Coulibaly, the man who killed four hostages in the Paris grocery, died Friday in clashes with French police. All three claimed ties to Islamic extremists in the Middle East — the Kouachis to al-Qaida in Yemen and Coulibaly to the Islamic State group.
Two French police officials told The Associated Press that authorities were searching around Paris for the Mini Cooper registered to Hayat Boumeddiene, Coulibaly’s widow, who Turkish officials say is now in Syria.
One of the police officials said the Paris terror cell consisted of about 10 members and that “five or six could still be at large,” but he did not provide their names. The other official said the cell was made up of about eight people and included Boumeddiene.
Video has emerged of Coulibaly explaining how the attacks in Paris would unfold. French police want to find the person or persons who shot and posted the video, which was edited after Friday’s attacks.
Ties among the three attackers themselves date back to at least 2005, when Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi were jailed together.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.