Said and Cherif Kouachi, the main suspects in the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, each have their own relationships to jihadist groups.
The older brother, Said Kouachi, reportedly trained with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Penisula (AQAP) in Yemen. AQAP makes about $10 million a year from ransoms, and is also funded by robberies (including banks, post offices, and payroll delivery trucks), and Saudi donors. AQAP’s leader has previously said that ransoms make up about half of AQAP’s revenues, suggesting that their overall budget is about $20 million a year. France’s quiet policy of paying ransoms to terrorist groups to release French hostages may be revisited in the near future given how ransom money can be used by groups like AQAP to train recruits in marksmanship and making bombs.
How Kouachi funded his airfare to Syria, and how the brothers paid for the AK-47s used in the attack (which cost $1,200 to $1,800 on France’s black market), have yet to be determined.
Younger brother Cherif Kouachi was a member of a recruitment ring in Paris known as “Nineteenth Arrondissement Iraqi Networks” or the “Butte-Chaumont network” that funneled Muslims from France to wage jihad in Iraq in the mid-2000s. The ringmaster was Farid Benyettou, an Algerian fed on a steady diet of jihadist texts and websites. As the case of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston illustrated, the websites that Tamerlan learned from didn’t host, administer, and fund themselves. There is usually an extensive, costly infrastructure behind so-called “lone wolves,” who are actually borrowing information, ideas, and tips from the wider jihadist network. The wider network is much more expensive to maintain than the few hundred or thousands of dollars it may have taken to carry out a single attack.
The Kouachi family is from Algeria, where jihadists including Al Qaeda in North Africa (AQIM) are heavily funded by ransom payments and drug trafficking.