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Friday, January 9, 2015

Charlie Hebdo suspects, hostage taker reported killed by police

Charlie Hebdo suspects, hostage taker reported killed by police

Charlie Hebdo suspects, accomplice reportedly killed as French police storm hostage scenes
Suspects in Charlie Hebdo attacks reportedly killed in shootout with French police
Hundreds of heavily armed police moved in on two Al Qaeda-linked suspects in the Charlie Hebdo magazine slayings where they were holed up near Charles de Gaulle Airport and shot them dead as they attempted to escape in a hail of gunfire, French authorities reported Friday.
The suspects, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, were killed in the late-afternoon police storming of a printing shop warehouse in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele outside Paris, and a hostage they had taken was freed, police told French media.
Meanwhile, an alleged accomplice holding hostages in a kosher market in Paris was reportedly killed an a police assault.
France 2 television showed special operations vehicles moving in on both the airport-area hideout where the brothers were surrounded and the market in southeastern Paris where the reported accomplice was holding at least five people and threatening to kill them if the Kouachi brothers were attacked.
The brothers had told police negotiators they "want to die as martyrs," said Yves Albarello, a member of parliament for Siene-et-Marne, the region where the standoff unfolded.
Police cordoned off area roads and closed two runways of the busy airport as helicopters hovered over the scene.
Scores of police in riot gear surrounding the kosher market on the opposite side of the city moved simultaneously on the alleged accomplice in the area near the Porte de Vincennes. Sirens wailed and dozens of ambulances stood by as police vehicles moved in and stun grenades flared. Shooting had been heard there earlier in the afternoon and at least one person was gravely injured then, according to French television.
Police earlier Friday identified Amedy Coulibaly, 32, as a suspect in the killing Thursday of a police officer in the Montrouge area of Paris. Coulibaly and his girlfriend, 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, were reported by police to be acting on behalf of the Kouachi brothers in taking hostages at the market.
Initial reports after the market was stormed said Coulibaly was killed in the operation. There were also reports that some of the hostages were killed. Several people seen fleeing the cordoned-off market area were believed to be hostages who were freed or managed to escape as police moved in.
French television quoted police as saying that Boumeddiene was still at large. It was unclear whether she had been with Coulibaly in the grocery store and escaped with the hostages or had been assisting him from outside.
Fearing further attacks by what authorities have said may be a larger terror cell connected to the Kouachis, the Paris mayor’s office ordered shops in the bustling Jewish district of Le Marais closed just hours ahead of the Sabbath. Le Marais, a popular shopping area with tourists and Parisians, is in the heart of the city and several miles from the police operations at the northeast and southeast fringes of Paris.
French media later reported another hostage situation in a jewelry story in Montpellier, but it was unclear if that was related to the Kouachis and their accomplices.
A massive manhunt involving more than 80,000 law enforcement officers had been underway for two days for the Kouachi brothers, identified by authorities as Al Qaeda-affiliated militants and suspects in Wednesday’s attack on the magazine where a dozen people were shot dead.
U.S. officials in Washington briefed by French intelligence ahead of the police operation to say that the main hostage-taker at the grocery, Coulibaly, had “close ties” to the Kouachi brothers and were demanding that the French police let them leave the airport-area warehouse safely or he would his hostages at the grocery.
Two schools in the huge area cordoned off around the kosher market were ordered on lockdown and anxious parents flocked to the police lines in futile efforts to get their children out of the embattled area.
"I'm trying to get my boy out of school," one woman from Senegal, Binta Gay, told an officer manning the boundary as she tried to reach her 5-year-old son. The policeman prevented her from crossing into the sealed area along Cours de Vincennes.
"I heard a shot ring out and then the police arrived immediately on the scene," said Eric Dadone-Vaillant, who lives in the neighborhood near the grocery store. "I saw a man down on the ground."
Dadone-Vaillant, interviewed by phone, said he had found himself trapped in a cafe across the street from the store as police swarmed the area.
As many as 20 officers crammed into the cafe and others crouched behind cars in the street, he said.
"The police here have confirmed that it is a hostage situation and that we would probably be here for a while," he added. They instructed customers to move away from the windows. "I'm taking shelter with everyone, behind the counter,"  he said.
Meanwhile, Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, confirmed that "an operation is under way at Dammartin-en-Goele."
Television images broadcast worldwide showed police convoys racing along a rain-slicked highway to the town, about 25 miles from the capital, near continental Europe's busiest airport where officials closed the northernmost runways because of their proximity to the scene. Helicopters hovered overhead, silhouetted against cloudy afternoon skies.
French television reported at least one hostage being held there, although the Interior Ministry said that it could not confirm that report.
French media reported that police have linked that policewoman's shooting on Thursday with the massacre on Wednesday at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine. The attack left 12 people dead and sparked the manhunt for the Kouachi brothers that has riveted the attention of millions in France and worldwide.
Authorities accuse the brothers of having carried out the assault at the magazine. According to U.S. and French officials, Said Kouachi, 34, traveled to Yemen in 2011 and had contacts with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group’s affiliate in that country. Both men were on the U.S. no-fly list.
The first glimpse of the two since the brutal attack was Thursday at a gas station where they allegedly stole food and gas before fleeing by car.
In Dammartin-en-Goele, authorities focused on an industrial area and told residents not to leave their homes.
"It's like a war zone here," one witness told BFM-TV.
Tilemakhos Paraskevas, 26, who lives a few blocks away from the print shop, said in an interview by telephone that the scene was like something out of a "horror movie."
"There were helicopters in the air this morning. I could see about 100 police in the streets and police trucks," he said. "Law enforcement were knocking on all the doors and telling people not to leave, to close the windows and turn off the lights."
"We feel safe because of the law enforcement, but we are anxious,” he said. "There is not a lot of information about what is happening."
"It's surprising, this is the first time something like this has happened in Dammartin," he added.
Within hours, a group of up to 100 journalists had gathered on a muddy hill in the middle of a roundabout near the highway leading into town. Police blocked many from gaining further access, setting up two perimeter fences and a checkpoint. Officials were questioning drivers who tried to enter the town, letting only a limited number of vehicles through.
Schools were placed on lockdown. A teacher in the besieged town said she was huddled on the floor with her students, far from windows, and was trying to stop the children from panicking by singing them rhymes.
Anxious parents gathered outside the school's gates for news about their children.
A salesman at the print shop told France Info radio that when the two men arrived at 8:30 a.m., he initially assumed they were officers with police special operations and shook one of the suspect's hands. He said the man was dressed in black combat gear and heavily armed.
“Go, we don’t kill civilians," the gunman said, according to the witness, who gave his name only as Didier. “I thought it was strange,” he said.
“As I left I didn’t know what it was, it wasn’t normal. I did not know what was going on. Was it a hostage taking or a burglary?"
A woman identified as Irene, 82, who lives near the printing company, told the French newspaper Liberation: "I’m scared, I’m really scared. My blinds are open but I don’t dare go near the window to shut them. All my children are calling me because they are scared for me."
French President Francois Hollande appeared at a news conference during which he tried to ease the fears of a nation on edge.
France "will be able to come through all these trials. I trust you and I trust our country," he said.

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