French police stormed two hostage sites and killed the brothers suspected of leading the massacre at Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a related gunman.
Brothers Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, were killed in a shootout at a printing business in the small northern town of Dammartin-en-Goele where they had reportedly taken at least one hostage. The hostage hasreportedly been freed.
A gunman thought to be Amedy Coulibaly, 32, was killed in a shootout with commandos at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris, after he had at taken at least five people hostage this afternoon.
At least four other people were killed in the incident while 15 were freed. Coulibaly and Hayat Boumeddienne, 26, were also suspected of killing a policewoman on Thursday.
The Paris gunman reportedly told police: “I’m going to keep these hostages until siege in Dammartin is lifted.”
Coulibaly and the brothers suspected in the shooting were members of a Paris terrorism cell that helped funnel fighters into Iraq during the American invasion a decade ago, Reuters reports.
French authorities had been prepared for a second attack or a hostage situation after gunmen stormed the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, killing 10 journalists and two police officers. The event was France’s deadliest terror attack in decades.
“This was an attack on freedom, we must be ourselves and we must realise our best weapon is unity,” Francois Hollande told the country after the attack. “Nothing must separate us or drive us apart. France is a great nation when under pressure. We are stronger than our enemies when we are together.”
“We will win,” He added. “Nothing will make us renounce our determination. Long live the republic. Long live France. “
Suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi were French nationals.
Cherif was reportedly convicted on terrorism charges in 2008 for helping funnel fighters into Iraq and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Both were on the US no-fly list. There is no confirmed indication that the two men were under direction from any terrorist network.
Reuters notes that Coulibaly was sentenced in 2010 for his role in a failed prison break-out of Smain Ali Belkacem, who masterminded a 1995 attack on the Paris transport system that killed eight people and wounded 120.
Cherif Kouachi was also implicated in the incident, but his case was eventually dropped.
Here are the two suspects in the murder of the policewoman:
Charlie Hedbo Suspects ‘Want To Die As Martyrs.’
The standoff in Dammartin-en-Goele comes after a high speed chase during which gunshots rang out and police trucks, ambulances, helicopters, and armoured vehicles descended on the area close to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
The AP reports that Yves Albarello, a lawmaker who said he was inside the command post, said the two brothers “want to die as martyrs.”
The French interior minister said there was a police operation underway to “neutralize” the suspects, according to AFP.
A witness who said he came into contact with the suspects at the printing business in which they reportedly took a hostage gave this account of the interaction to France Info radio:
The man, who would only [give] his name as Didier, said he had an appointment with Michel, the owner of the printing and publicity material business. Didier said he shook one of the gunmen’s hands who he took to be police special operations officer. He was dressed in black and was heavily armed with at least one rifle.
He said when he arrived at the business his client came out to meet him with what he took to be a policeman, dressed in black combat gear, with a bulletproof vest.
“We all shook hands and my client told me to leave.” Didier added that the man he took to be the policeman said: “Go, we don’t kill civilians”. He added “I thought was strange.”
Here are some photos from the Paris situation:
French police forcibly stopped young people on a scooter as they arrive near the scene.
Here are some photos from the operation in Dammartin-en-Goele:
Stefano Pozzebon and Amanda Macias contributed to this report.
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