02:47 - Source: CNN
Chasing the trail of Hayat Boumeddiene

Story highlights

Boumeddiene's last known location is the city of Sanliurfa, by the Turkey-Syria border

A smuggler tells how a woman dressed all in black paid him to help her cross

On the Turkey-Syria border CNN  — 

Hayat Boumeddiene is today among Europe’s most wanted women.

The widow of Paris supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly, she is believed to have disappeared into Syria in the days leading up to the shootings in Paris.

Since the attacks, security officials have been scrambling to trace her movements.

But on January 2, a week before her name was internationally known, security camera footage shows that Boumeddiene and a male companion cleared customs with ease at Istanbul’s secondary airport.

Something raised a red flag with Turkish authorities, however, and the two were placed under surveillance.

They checked into the Bade Hotel on the Asian side of Istanbul. They were monitored for a couple of days, but after engaging in what was described as “touristic” activities, the surveillance stopped.

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Following the Paris attacks, Turks officials alerted French authorities that they had already gathered some intelligence on Boumeddiene.

The French provided the Turks with phone numbers that allowed them further to track her movements.

Boumeddiene’s last known location is the city of Sanliurfa, along the Turkey-Syria border.

Sanliurfa has become a key hub for transit into Syria. The touristic city has seen its population swell due to the influx of refugees from Syria’s civil war, and just about anyone can blend into the chaotic streets.

From here, those seeking to enter Syria can find plenty of routes for the next leg of their journey.

CNN spoke to two men in a town close to the border, both of whom are professional people smugglers.

Over the last few months, the Turkish military has really cracked down on the practice, one said, his head wrapped in a scarf to hide his identity. But there are always security breaches and alternate routes to be exploited.

The second man, his face obscured by a black cloth, told CNN that a woman dressed all in black paid him some two to three times the going rate to get into Syria – right around when Turkish authorities believe Boumeddiene slipped into the country.

“She said ‘I will give you 100 lira just get me to Syria,’” he recalled. “She was entirely covered in black, like I am now.”

It was the first time since the war in Syria began in 2011 that either of them had taken a woman across on her own.

The smuggler said the woman was of medium build, and guessed her age to be – like Boumeddiene – in her mid-20s. She spoke classical Arabic and did not have a Syrian accent.

That, he claimed, is all he knows.

“I saw the 100 lira and I did not ask anything,” he told CNN. What the woman paid is roughly $42.

On the back of a motorcycle, they headed down a dusty border road dotted with potential illegal crossing points.

The Turkish military stopped the CNN team before it could reach the area where the man said the woman crossed into Syria.

There is no way of knowing if she was Boumeddiene.

But within an hour of her transaction with the smuggler, the woman covered in black was in Syria.