Fresh hostage drama underway, suspects in policewoman killing identified

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Paris: The manhunt for the two Charlie Hebdo suspects entered decisive phase on Friday with the two brothers now holed up inside a building in Dammartin-en-Goele, north-east of Paris.

Here are the live updates:

  • Authorities in Paris asks tourists to take “extra care” as terrorists remain on the run following the shooting of staff at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office.
  • Traffic has been stopped on Paris ring road due to the hostage crisis, say reports.
  • French police says, a man and a woman who are believed to be armed and dangerous are suspected in Thursday’s deadly shooting of a policewoman in the Paris suburb of Montrouge has been identified as the hostage taker as Amedy Coulibaly, 32, while also claimed a woman named Hayat Boumeddiene (left), 26, is also involved.
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  • AFP quotes police as saying: “Hostage-taker at Paris market appears linked to newspaper attack suspects.”
  • At least two killed in hostage standoff in Kosher Supermarket in Paris, reports AFP.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the French President, condemns the terrorist attack in the strongest terms, also conveys condolences.
  • France 24 further reports that at least two people are injured in the fresh shooting that occurred in eastern Paris.
  • AFP quotes police as saying: “Schools near Paris hostage-taking go into lockdown.”
  • Heavily-armed cops seen moving towards the scene of reported shooting at Kosher supermarket, France 24 says.
  • Gunman linked to policewoman killing suspected of new shooting in eastern Paris, French media says.
  • The supermarket is near the Porte de Vincennes in the 20th arrondissement in Paris: Reports.
  • France 24 reports that two gunmen have taken at least five people including women and children as hostages in Paris kosher supermarket, adding that some unconfirmed reports say that the gunmen are ‘suspect in police officer shooting’.
  • One person reportedly injured in the latest shooting at Kosher supermarket in east Paris: Reports.
  • “Shooting breaks out in eastern Paris,” France 24 is quoting reports as saying.
  • AFP quotes police as saying: “Paris policewoman killing linked to massacre brothers.”
  • France Info radio has reported that a salesman at the printing company office had shaken hands with one of the suspects early on Friday morning. “We all shook hands and my client told me to leave,” he said. An armed man, who he thought was a policeman, asked him to go as they did not kill civilians. “I thought that was strange,” he added.
  • Authorities at Charles de Gaulle airport deny reports that fights have been cancelled or diverted, or runway closed. Only precautions have been taken, they add.
  • CNN quotes a local lawmaker as saying that the suspects have told police that they want to die as martyrs.
  • Mobiles are reportedly no longer working in Dammartin-en-Goele.
  • French media reports say special forces have been spotted on the roof of a building near the scene of the siege.
    • AFP quotes French Prime Minister Manuel Valls as saying: “We are in a war against terrorism. We are not in a war against religion.”
    • French President Francois Hollande is addressing reporters at the Interior Ministry. He says: “A major police operation is underway… I have called on the nation to remain united. However, unity does not mean uniformity but it means respect for the diversity.”

    “We assure people that they are living under the rule of law,” the President says, adding, “We have seen international solidarity, very strong, especially in Europe.”

    He admits that the authorities knew “attacks were possible”.

    • French authorities have meanwhile said that shots were fired during the police-suspects confrontation at a roadblock but there were injuries.
    • French President Francois Hollande will be briefed on the siege in Dammartin-en-Goele shortly at the Interior Ministry.
    • As per reports, the building where the suspects are hold up was being used to run a workshop of Paris-based Création Tendance Decouverte, which makes signs and exhibition stands for other companies.
    • AFP news agency says one person is being held hostage in the building where Charlie Hebdo attackers are holed up.
    • French media reports say the suspected killer of a policewoman in the Paris suburb of Montrouge on Thursday has been identified. That incident is reported to be unrelated to the Charlie Hebdo attack.
    • France 24 is quoting Interior Ministry sources as saying that they are now near certain the suspects holed up inside the building are the Kouachi brothers, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack on Wednesday.
    • The small town of Dammartin-en-Goele has been completely cordoned off and more forces are being sent to the scene of operation, say French media reports.
      • There is still no confirmation as regards how many hostages the Charlie Hebdo suspects are holding inside the building in which they are holed up.
      • Reports say flights have been diverted at the Charles de Gaulle airport, located near the scene of the police operation.
  • Medical teams have been dispatched to the scene of the operation in Dammartin-en-Goele.
  • Paris prosecutor’s office refutes reports that fresh deaths have taken place in today’s shootout.
  • TV footage shows lines of police vehicles with lights and sirens on driving through heavy rain to the scene.
  • AFP quotes a French minister as saying that a police operation is underway to ‘neutralise’ French massacre suspects.
  • Police are reported to be holding negotiations with the suspects amid claims they are holding hostages. The news could not be confirmed.
  • Some reports say 10 persons are being held hostage at the building from where a small printing company operates.
  • Armed police have also ordered members of the media to move back from the scene of the incident.
  • Residents and children at three primary schools in Dammartin-en-Goele have been told to stay inside their premises.
  • Reports say two persons have been killed and at least two seriously injured in the shootout ahead of hostage taking in Dammartin-en-Goele.
  • As per reports, five police helicopters have been sent to Dammartin-en-Goele, the entrance to which has now been blocked by security forces. The industrial building is located near Charles de Gaulle airport.

  • France 24 reports that the manhunt for the two Charlie Hebdo suspects is entering decisive phase with the duo now holed up inside a building in Dammartin-en-Goele, north-east of Paris. Detailing the sequence of events, France 24 reports that the suspects tried to steal a car – a grey Peugeot – and were challenged by the police. They then opened fire on the police and fled in the car after which a chase on N2 motorway began. They are now holed up inside a small printing company building in Dammartin-en-Goele, about 40 kilometres from what had been the search area, and are holding an unconfirmed number of people hostages.
  • France’s Interior Minister has confirmed that operation to nab suspects is currently underway northeast of Paris.
  • AFP is quoting police sources as saying that a car chase is currently underway on the N2 motorway. The two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack case are suspected to be inside the car with at least one hostage and they have opened fire on the police chasing them.
  • The chase is happening on the N2 motorway between Dammartin-en-Goele town, north-east of Paris, to the focus area of the manhunt. The car is believed to be a Peugeot 206, grey in colour, which was stolen this morning from the town of Montagny Sainte Felicite, about 50 kilometres northeast of Paris.
  • France’s state TV, France 24, is reporting that at least one person has been taken hostage in north-east Paris. Other reports say the incident has taken place at Dammartin-en-Goele town in north-east Paris.
  • There are reports of fresh firing from northeast of Paris. Firing took place when police were chasing a car. More details are awaited.
  • The Islamic State has lauded the gunmen who attacked the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris as “heroic jihadists”. According to Site Intelligence, reported by Reuters, Islamic State praised the attackers in an audio note, which was posted on Twitter and jihadi forums. “We start our bulletin with France. Heroic jihadists killed 12 journalists and wounded ten others working in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and that was support for our master (Prophet) Mohammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him,” the audio bulletin says.
  • Reports say thousands of troops have been pressed into the police hunt for the two suspects. French security forces are using everything from sniffer dogs, heat seeking cameras to helicopters around the towns of Longpont and Villers-Cotterets, says the Guardian.
  • As per the BBC, the Council of Paris will convene an extraordinary meeting today in which Charlie Hebdo will be made an honorary citizen of the French capital.
  • Even as the hunt for the two suspects in the Paris magazine attack continues, more details about the duo are emerging. Cherif Kouachi, 32, was a lover of rap music before he turned an aspiring Muslim holy warrior. A former pizza deliveryman, the younger Kouachi was a ladies’ man who was once sentenced to 18 months in jail in 2008 for attempting to leave for Iraq to join Islamist fighters there. During the 2008 trial, Cherif was described as a reluctant holy warrior who had undergone only minimal training for combat and learnt how a Kalashnikov automatic rifle works by studying a sketch.

After being released from prison he worked in the fish market of a supermarket in the Paris suburbs for six months beginning in October 2009. Two years after the conviction, police again detained Cherif, but later released him without charge, in a probe of an alleged plot to free from prison a man who was convicted of bombing a Paris train line in 1995.

He had even appeared in a 2005 French TV documentary on Islamic extremism. Cherif was quoted as saying in the documentary that he chose the path of jihad after hearing teachings of a firebrand Muslim preacher. The cleric “told me that (holy) texts prove the benefits of suicide attacks. It’s written in the texts that it’s good to die as a martyr,” Kouachi was quoted as saying. The documentary footage also shows Cherif in 2004 as a lanky young man who was more interested in spending time with pretty girls than on going to the mosque.

Not much is known about his elder sibling, Said Kouachi (34), though. As per a news agency, Said frequented a prayer room on the ground floor of an apartment building in Reims, about 145 kilometers northeast of Paris. According to the local imam, Abdul-Hamid al-Khalifa, Said used to wear traditional North Africa clothes to prayers and didn’t mix much with other worshippers.

US officials, meanwhile, said on Thursday that both were on the US no-fly list and the older brother had travelled to Yemen, although it was unclear whether he was there to join up with extremist groups such as al Qaeda.

  • France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said that he would host an international meeting on Sunday for his counterparts from the United States and Europe to discuss the battle against terrorism in the wake of the Paris magazine massacre. “I have taken the initiative of inviting to Paris on Sunday my counterparts from the most affected European countries… As well as my American colleague (Attorney General) Eric Holder,” said Bernard Cazeneuve.
  • As per BBC, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has told the UN General Assembly: “Terrorism remains a global threat. In recent days alone, we have seen carnage in Yemen as well as a despicable attack against the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Our response to brutality and extremism cannot be limited to military action, important as it is. We must engage in wide-ranging efforts, including by addressing the conditions that give rise to such poison in the first place. There is also a need for greater attention to the nexus of extremism and organised crime.”
  • On Thursday night, the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris went dark to pay tributes to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
  • Police in France have resumed their search for the two brothers suspected to have carried out the attack at Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris. Third day into the manhunt, police fear that the suspects might reach the border with Belgium and escape.
  • Manhunt for the two suspects remains suspended for the night in France, and is likely to resume in the next few hours.
  • The Telegraph daily has also reported of a possible link between Charlie Hebdo attackers and a north London mosque. According to the newspaper, Cherif Kouachi is a disciple of al Qaeda lynchpin Djamel Beghal, also an Abu Hamza lieutenant, who allegedly recruited the shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, the “20th hijacker” in the 9/11 attacks, at the Finsbury Park Mosque.
  • Britain’s Telegraph daily reports that al Qaeda is planning a Paris-style terrorist attack against Britain, as per the head of MI5. Andrew Parker, the Director General of the Security Service, believes the threat of a “mass casualty attack” was growing and that intelligence pointed to the existence of specific plots.
  • Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called on the country’s media not to do self-censorship in the wake of Paris attack. “We should not stop being ourselves because of this kind of attack. If we do engage in self-censorship, if we do change the way we live and the way we think, that gives terrorists a victory and the last thing that we should do is give these evil fanatics any kind of victory,” Abbott said.
  • Armed and masked anti-terrorism police are focussing on woodland villages northeast of Paris while looking for Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, the two brothers suspected to be behind the Wednesday attack at Charlie Hebdo.

On Thursday, police officers conducted house-to-house searches in the village of Corcy, a few kilometres from a service station where police sources said the brothers were sighted in ski masks. Helicopters also scouted the area.

Searches were also taking place in the nearby village of Longpont, set in thick forest and boggy marshland about 70 kilometres north of Paris, but it was not clear whether the fugitives who had been spotted in the area were holed up or had moved on.

“We have not found them, there is no siege,” an Interior Ministry official in Paris said.

Corcy residents looked bewildered as heavily armed policeman in ski masks and helmets combed the village meticulously from houses to garages and barns.

In Longpont, a resident said police had told villagers to stay indoors because the gunmen may have abandoned their car there.

  • Said and Cherif Kouach are French-born sons of Algerian-born parents, both in their early 30s, and already under police surveillance. One was jailed for 18 months for trying to travel to Iraq a decade ago to fight as part of an Islamist cell. Police said they were “armed and dangerous”.

United States and European sources close to the investigation said on Thursday that one of the brothers, Said Kouachi, was in Yemen in 2011 for a number of months training with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the group`s most active affiliates.

US government sources said Said Kouachi and his brother Cherif Kouachi were listed in two US security databases, a highly classified database containing information on 1.2 million possible counter-terrorism suspects, called TIDE, and the much smaller “no fly” list maintained by the Terrorist Screening Centre, an inter-agency unit.

  • Also on Thursday, US President Barack Obama made an unannounced visit to the French Embassy in Washington to pay his respects. He wrote in a condolence book, “As allies across the centuries, we stand united with our French brothers to ensure that justice is done and our way of life is defended. We go forward together knowing that terror is no match for freedom and ideals we stand for – ideals that light the world.”

Also Read: Barack Obama visits French Embassy to offer condolences

  • Also yesterday, a policewoman was killed in Paris in a shootout with a gunman wearing a bulletproof vest, setting a tense nation further on edge. Police sources were unable to say whether that incident was linked to the previous day`s assault at the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper, but the authorities opened another terrorism investigation.

Montrouge Mayor Jean-Loup Metton said the policewoman and a colleague came under fire while responding to a reported traffic accident. Witnesses said the assailant fled in a Renault Clio. Police sources said he wore a bullet-proof vest and had a an assault rifle and a handgun. A police officer at the scene told Reuters he did not appear to resemble the Charlie Hebdo shooter suspects.

  • Bewildered and tearful French people held a national day of mourning yesterday. The bells of Notre Dame pealed for those killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo, a left-leaning slayer of sacred cows whose cartoonists have been national figures since the Parisian counter-cultural heyday of the 1960s and 1970s.

The newspaper had been firebombed in the past for printing cartoons that poked fun at militant Islam and some that mocked the Prophet Muhammad himself. Two of those killed were police posted to protect the paper.

  • While world leaders described the attack as an assault on democracy, al Qaeda`s North Africa branch praised the gunmen as “knight(s) of truth”. Many European newspapers either re-published Charlie Hebdo cartoons or lampooned the killers with images of their own.
  • Police have already released photographs of the two suspects, Cherif and Said Kouachi, 32 and 34.

A third person wanted by police, an 18-year-old man, turned himself into police in Charleville-Mézières near the Belgian border late on Wednesday. A legal source said he was the brother-in-law of one of the brothers. French media quoted friends as saying he was in school at the time of the attack.

(With agency inputs)

Two Killed in Paris Hostage Drama: Reports

DAMMARTIN-EN-GOELE, FRANCE: At least two people are reported killed in the Porte de Vincennes area of east Paris, where a man already suspected of gunning down a policewoman on Thursday was thought to be behind a new attack on a kosher grocery store, with at least five hostages taken.

News agency AFP quoted sources to report that two people had been killed in that hostage situation. The Porte de Vincennes area was locked down with people told to stay indoors and police streaming into the streets.

In the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, only 12 kilometres (seven miles) from Paris’s main Charles de Gaulle airport, snipers were deployed on roofs and helicopters swooped low over a small printing business where two brothers suspected of slaughtering 12 people in the Islamist massacre at Charlie Hebdo are holed up.

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