• Two suspects in Wednesday’s terrorist attack, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, are at large; they are considered armed and dangerous.
• The two were reportedly spotted Thursday morning in northern France. French special forces are pursuing them.
• The 18-year-old stepbrother of the two suspects, Hamyd Mourad, surrendered to police late Wednesday.
Police are on the hunt for two men involved in Wednesday’s terrorist attack at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
Police say suspects Said and Cherif Kouachi, two brothers, are on the loose and are armed and dangerous after escaping the attack by car. According the latest reports, the two have been seen driving along a road about 30 miles north of Paris and at a gas station in Aisne in northern France.
BBC reports that the brothers robbed the gas station.
AFP reports that the men were seen armed with AK-47s and RPG rocket launchers. French special forces have been deployed to the area. French media is reporting that hundreds of police were searching house to house in the town of Crepy-en-Valois. Now they are reportedly searching a forest nearby.
A third man, the Kouachis’ 18-year-old stepbrother, Hamyd Mourad, handed himself over to police in northeastern France late Wednesday, according to AFP. Mourad is from an area near Reims in northeastern France.
BFM TV, citing unidentified sources, said Mourad decided to go to the police after seeing his name on social media as one of the suspects sought in connection with the attack.
Police arrested seven people overnight, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told local media, and those arrested reportedly include people who knew the Kouachi brothers.
Brothers Have Links To Terrorism
Both men sought by authorities as suspects, Said Kouachi, 34, and Cherif Kouachi, 32, are French nationals.
The brothers are linked to a Yemeni terrorist network, an anonymous police official told the Associated Press. A witness at the scene of the attack quoted the gunmen as saying, “You can tell the media that it’s Al Qaeda in Yemen.”
Police identified the men as suspects after Said “left his identification papers in the abandoned Citroën vehicle used to escape after the attack on Charlie Hebdo,” The New York Times reports.
The Times reports that authorities said Mourad, who surrendered to police Wednesday night, drove the getaway car.
Cherif was reportedly convicted on terrorism charges in 2008 for helping funnel fighters into Iraq, according to NBC News. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
During the trial, he reportedly said he was outraged by images of the torture of Iraqi inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison run by the US in Iraq.
Attackers Forced Their Way Into Charlie Hebdo Offices
Charlie Hebdo has drawn the ire of Islamic militant groups for regularly publishing cartoons and articles that lampooned jihadists, including caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that many Muslims find offensive. The magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2011 after the magazine published controversial cartoons poking fun at Islam.
The hooded attackers stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday in the deadliest militant attack on French soil in decades. Experts, citing the video of the attack, believe that the attackers were professionally trained.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the assailants killed a man at the entrance of the building to get inside. They then headed to the second floor and opened fire on an editorial meeting attended by eight journalists, a police officer tasked with protecting the magazine’s editorial director, and a guest.
The attackers reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar!” (God is great) as they were shooting outside of the Charlie Hebdo offices. Witnesses captured video of part of the attack outside.
“What we saw was a massacre. Many of the victims had been executed, most of them with wounds to the head and chest,” Patrick Hertgen, an emergencies services medic called out to treat the injured, told Reuters.
AFP reports that jihadist flags and Molotov cocktails were found in the car abandoned by the Paris attackers as they escaped the scene.
Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier, known as “Charb,” is among those who were killed in the attack. Gunmen also killed three other prominent cartoonists at the magazine.
Police On Alert For Other Attacks
Armed police officers were reportedly patrolling department stores and the Arc de Triomphe among other areas of France on Wednesday.
“There is a possibility of other attacks, and other sites are being secured,” police union official Rocco Contento told Reuters.
Prime Minister Valls said France faced a terrorist threat “without precedent.”
Reuters notes that Islamist militants have repeatedly threatened France with attacks because of the country’s military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa.
The brothers suspected in Wednesday’s attack were reportedly being monitored by police because of their known connections to terrorism. The brothers are from the Paris region.
More than 100,000 people gathered in cities around France on Wednesday night for rallies paying tribute to the victims.
French President Francois Hollande declared Thursday a national day of mourning for the victims.
Reuters contributed to this report, with reporting by John Irish and Tangi Salaun and editing by Bernard Orr.
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