'It's like a warzone': Two reported dead as Paris shooting suspects take hostages

By admin
09 January 2015

There is "near certainty" that the brothers sought in the Charlie Hebdo shooting are in an industrial building surrounded by police north of Paris, French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet says in an interview with the broadcaster BFMTV.

French broadcaster BFM-TV reported that there is a hostage-taking situation at the warehouse and that there has been an exchange of fire. There have already been reports of two deaths and several people injured.

One resident of the village told BFM-TV that "it was like a warzone," as five helicopters flew overhead. One female resident said she recognized the two suspects, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi.

French police had been searching woodland north of Paris Thursday night.

The search and security operation was focussed on an area near the town of Villers-Cotterets, around 80 kilometres north-east of Paris, Liberation newspaper reported online.

Some 88 000 police and military forces had been mobilized for the manhunt.

The Paris-born Cherif brothers were known to French authorities. Cherif was sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for helping send recruits to fight for al-Qaeda in Iraq. His brother was never charged with a crime but was also under surveillance.

Both were also on Washington's no-fly list, a US intelligence official was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

Two masked gunmen with automatic rifles stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices in the centre of the French capital Wednesday. The attackers cried "Allah is great" and "We have avenged the prophet," witnesses said.

The magazine had ridiculed the prophet Mohammed among other religious and institutional targets of its satire.

Eleven people were injured in the attack, with four remaining in a serious condition, Le Monde daily reported online early Friday.

Said was identified as one of the assailants through photographs, Cazeneuve said late Thursday. His identity card was also found in the stolen car used to flee the scene.

The brothers were reportedly seen near Villers-Cotterets Thursday morning by a petrol station attendant who saw Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket launcher in their vehicle. Some media outlets said the brothers may have robbed the station.

A second sighting of the pair was reported in the same region, the department of Aisne, in the afternoon.

Nine people were in detention for questioning, Cazeneuve said.

One was reportedly a brother-in-law of one of the Kouachi brothers, named by French press agency AFP as Mourad Hamyd, 18.

Hamyd turned himself in to police in Charleville-Mezieres, around 200 kilometres north-east of Paris, on Wednesday, the agency reported. Classmates said he was in school with them at the time of the shooting, it said.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo killed eight of its journalists, including the editor and several well-known cartoonists.

The latest edition will still be published next week, with a print run of 1 million copies planned, a lawyer for the magazine said, up from the usual 60,000.

Copies of this week's edition have sold out and were being offered for hundreds of euros online, AFP wrote.

Charlie Hebdo is known for lampooning all major institutions and religions with harsh satire and often explicit cartoons, as well as championing freedom of expression. Its offices were firebombed after publishing material satirizing the prophet Mohammed in 2011.

A second shooting in Paris left a policewoman dead Thursday, but officials said there was no indication that the incident was linked to the magazine shooting.

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