Kouachi Brothers Lacked 'Intellect' to Resist Extremism: Teacher

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The terrorist brothers behind the Charlie Hebdo magazine massacre played for their school soccer team but lacked the intelligence to resist the appeal of jihadism, one of their former teachers told a U.K. newspaper.

Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, who were killed Friday in an armed siege that followed a two-day manhunt, became radicalized while living in Paris. Cherif Kouachi, 32, was also influenced by Islamist extremists in prison after being sentenced for terror offences in 2008.

“They got along relatively well with their classmates. I don’t think they created any problems,” the brothers’ former biology teacher Françoise Ronfet told Britain's The Times newspaper. She added that the pair were hard working but not academically gifted.

She said both brothers joined the soccer team at the school, in a remote village in France’s Massif Central region. They were sent to the school on a bursary after their widowed mother, an Algerian immigrant, was unable to cope. Their mother died while they were still at the school.

Their problems began when they moved to “big city” Paris, Ronfet told the newspaper. “They were a bit weak really, and they ended up with these Muslim fundamentalists. They didn’t have the intellect to resist.”

Ronfet added: “[Cherif] dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. Obviously he had good skills with the ball, but that’s not enough. I told him, ‘You know, you need something else to be a professional sportsman. You still need something up there, so you must do your work.’”

On Sunday, France's former leading counter-terror judge told NBC News that Cherif Kouachi had not appeared dangerous despite being known to authorities. Jean-Louis Bruguiere said the bomber had been more of a petty criminal than a terrorist mastermind and was not hugely memorable because he had a "very low profile."

"He was very, very against the Jews," Bruguiere said. "That I remember."


- Alastair Jamieson