French police were confronting two separate — but apparently related — hostage situations Friday, after a jihadist couple suspected of killing a cop a day earlier stormed a Paris deli, killing two and taking as many as five prisoners even as the suspects Wednesday’s massacre at a Paris satirical magazine were holed up in a printing plant 25 miles north of the city, authorities said.
The hostage taken in the second case, at a kosher grocery store in eastern Paris, were identified by police as Amedy Coulibaly and Hayat Boumeddiene, a couple suspected in the murder Thursday of Paris Police Officer Clarissa Jean-Philippe as she attended to a routine traffic accident in the city. Authorities believe the case is related to Wednesday’s attack, which 12 people, including two cops, dead at the publication Charlie Hebdo, which has angered Muslim radicals by publishing images of Prophet Muhammed.
Authorities feared all four suspects are bent on going out as martyrs, and potentially killing hostages and police officers in the process.
The Islamist brothers suspected of killing 12 people in an attack on a French satirical magazine were holding at least one hostage inside a printing house surrounded by police northeast of Paris Friday morning, and at least two people were reportedly dead in a separate, but likely related hostage situation in Paris.
Hundreds of French security forces backed by a convoy of ambulances streamed into Dammartin-en-Goele, a small industrial town 25 miles outside the capital in a massive operation to seize the men suspected of carrying out France’s deadliest terror attack in 54 years. The suspects reportedly told police negotiators they were ready to “die as martyrs.”
“France has been struck directly in the heart of its capital, in a place where the spirit of liberty — and thus of resistance — breathed freely.”- French President Francois Hollande
Meanwhile, two people were reportedly dead in connection with a separate hostage situation in a kosher grocery on the east side of Paris, where a gunman armed with AK-47s was believed to be holding as many as five hostages, including women and children. The gunman in that case is believed to be the same person who shot a Paris policewoman on Thursday. Authorities believ the second hostage situation is related to Wednesday’s massacre and the ongoing standoff involving the suspects in Wednesday’s massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The two suspects in the massacre, identified as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, were holed up Friday inside CTF Creation Tendance Decouverte. Xavier Castaing, the chief Paris police spokesman, and town hall spokeswoman Audrey Taupenas, said there appeared to be one hostage inside the printing house.
Christelle Alleume, who works across the street, said that a round of gunfire interrupted her coffee break Friday morning.
“We heard shots and we returned very fast because everyone was afraid,” she told i-Tele. “We had orders to turn off the lights and not approach the windows.
Officials told Fox News that there were four people inside the business when the gunmen went inside, but three people were somehow able to leave the area.
The Associated Press reported that at least three helicopters were seen hovering above the town. At nearby Charles de Gaulle airport, two runways were briefly closed to arrivals to avoid interfering in the standoff, but were later reopened. Schools went into lockdown.
Earlier Friday, a French security official told the AP that shots were fired as the suspects stole a car in the town of Montagny Sainte Felicite in the early morning hours. French officials told Fox News that the suspects threw the car’s driver out at the side of the road. The driver, who recognized the suspects, then called police and alerted them to the suspects’ whereabouts.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that 88,000 security forces have mobilized to find the brothers after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices on Wednesday.
On Thursday, U.S. government sources confirmed that Said Kouachi had traveled to Yemen in 2011 and had direct contact with an Al Qaeda training camp. The other brother, Cherif, had been convicted in France of terrorism charges in 2008 for trying to join up with fighters battling in Iraq. The sources also confirmed that both brothers were on a U.S. no-fly list.
Fox News was told the investigators have made it a priority to determine whether he had contact with Al Qaeda in Yemen’s leadership, including a bomb maker and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
French President Francois Hollande called for tolerance after the country’s worst terrorist attack since 1961, in the middle of the conflict over Algerian independence from France.
“France has been struck directly in the heart of its capital, in a place where the spirit of liberty — and thus of resistance — breathed freely,” Hollande said.
Nine people, members of the brothers’ entourage, have been detained for questioning in several regions. In all, 90 people, many of them witnesses to the grisly assault on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, were questioned for information on the attackers, Cazeneuve said in a statement.
The minister confirmed reports the men were identified by the elder brother’s ID card, left in an abandoned getaway car, a slip that contrasted with the seeming professionalism of the attack.
A third suspect, 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, surrendered at a police station Wednesday evening after hearing his name linked to the attacks. His relationship to the Kouachi brothers was unclear.
Charlie Hebdo had long drawn threats for its depictions of Islam, although it also satirized other religions and political figures. The weekly paper had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, and a sketch of Islamic State’s leader was the last tweet sent out by the irreverent newspaper, minutes before the attack. Nothing has been tweeted since.
Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed in the attack.
Charlie Hebdo planned a special edition next week, produced in the offices of another paper.
Editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, who was among those slain, “symbolized secularism … the combat against fundamentalism,” his companion, Jeannette Bougrab, said on BFM-TV.
“He was ready to die for his ideas,” she said.
Authorities around Europe have warned of the threat posed by the return of Western jihadis trained in warfare. France counts at least 1,200 citizens in the war zone in Syria — headed there, returned or dead. Both the Islamic State group and Al Qaeda have threatened France — home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.
The French suspect in a deadly 2014 attack on a Jewish museum in Belgium had returned from fighting with extremists in Syria; and the man who rampaged in southern France in 2012, killing three soldiers and four people at a Jewish school, received paramilitary training in Pakistan.