April 15, 2017 / 2:57 PM / 4 months ago

Islamic State militant linked to Charlie Hebdo attack could still be alive - Iraq

FILE PHOTO: General view of police and rescue vehicles at the scene after a shooting at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper, January 7, 2015.Philippe Wojazer

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Islamic State militant linked to the deadly 2015 attack on French weekly Charlie Hebdo could be still be alive, the Iraqi military said on Saturday.

Boubaker el-Hakim was reported by American defence officials to have been killed in November, in a U.S. drone strike in Raqqa, Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria.

Iraqi intelligence supplied information to the Syrian airforce to carry out a series of strikes on Islamic State headquarters and hideouts in Syria, including one believed to belong to el-Hakim, an Iraqi military statement said.

Aircraft from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's airforce targeted several locations in Raqqa and Albu Kamal, near the Iraqi border, said the statement, without indicating the location of el-Hakim's headquarters or the date of the raids.

An Iraqi military spokesman told Reuters el-Hakim's headquarters were destroyed but it wasn't clear if he was killed.

A person holds a placard with a pencil which reads "I am Charlie" during a minute of silence for victims of the shooting at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, in Strasbourg in this January 8, 2015 file picture.Vincent Kessler/Files

In 2015 Iraq and Syria established a joint committee with Russia and Iran, Assad's main foreign backers, to share intelligence about Islamic State.

El-Hakim was believed to have been involved in planning the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, a weekly known for its satirical covers ridiculing political and religious leaders.

FILE PHOTO: A woman lights a candle as people gather on the Place de la Republique square to pay tribute to the victims of last year's shooting at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, France, January 7, 2016.Stephane Mahe

Two Islamist militants broke into an editorial meeting of the weekly, raking it with bullets, killing 17 people. Another militant later killed a policewoman and took hostages at a supermarket, killing four before police shot him dead.

Islamic State declared a "caliphate" spanning parts of Iraq and Syria after it captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in mid-2014.

The hardline Sunni group has since lost most cities it captured in Iraq and its fighters are now surrounded in parts of Mosul by U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces.

A U.S.-backed offensive is also under way to capture Raqqa, involving a Syrian Kurdish-Arab militia alliance.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Andrew Bolton

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