City officials in Reims say one of the terrorists responsible for attacks last week that killed 17 people was buried in the eastern French city over their objections and despite concerns that the grave could become a shrine for extremists.
Said Kouachi, the elder of the two brothers who together gunned down 12 people on January 7 in their attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was buried at the demand of the French government, officials in Reims said in a statement on Saturday.
"Given the risk of disturbance of the peace and in order to quickly turn the page of this tragic episode, it was decided to do the burial quickly," the city said.
Earlier in the week Reims Mayor Arnaud Robinet said he'd "categorically refuse" a request by Kouachi's family to bury him in Reims, 144 kilometers east of Paris, where he lived before police killed him and his brother January 9.
"I don't want a grave that serves to attract fanatics. I don't want a place that promotes hate," Robinet said in an interview on France Info radio Thursday.
Speaking on BFM TV, Robinet said he'd been forced to allow the burial by the government, which enforced a French law that grants a right to be buried in the town of last residence.
"He was buried last night, in the most discrete, anonymous way possible," Robinet said in an interview on French television channel BFM TV.
Robinet said he didn't know where Kouachi was buried in the cemetery, which he didn't identify. Antoine Flasaquier, a lawyer for Kouachi's widow, said the burial took place overnight "in the greatest discretion and dignity." Flasaquier said the widow did not attend the burial for fear she'd be followed by reporters and give away the location of the grave. Two other terrorists killed in shootouts with police following last week's attacks await burial.
Cherif Kouachi will be buried in his hometown of Gennevilliers, outside Paris. City officials there say they wanted to avoid "all useless and indecent polemic" over the burial and said Kouachi would be buried in an anonymous grave "to avoid all risk of disturbance to the peace and to preserve the town's tranquility."
There has been no word of plans for burying Amedy Coulibaly, who killed five people including four hostages at a kosher market in Paris before he was killed by police January 9.
The debate over the burials echoed the one nearly three years ago over Mohamed Merah, who killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in Toulouse in 2012. Then-President Nicolas Sarkozy intervened to allow the burial over the objections of Toulouse's mayor.