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French Police Kill 3 Gunmen to End Hostage Crises

  • Lisa Bryant
  • VOA News

A security officer directs freed hostages to safety after police stormed a kosher market to end the situation in Paris, Jan. 9, 2015.

A security officer directs freed hostages to safety after police stormed a kosher market to end the situation in Paris, Jan. 9, 2015.

French authorities say the two suspects in Wednesday's Charlie Hebdo attack have been killed and their hostage freed during a police raid north of Paris. A separate raid in the capital killed another gunman holding multiple hostages at a kosher supermarket.

Explosions and gunfire sounded as police moved in Friday on the warehouse in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele where suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi were holed up. Reports say the brothers came out shooting before being killed by police.

In Paris, security forces stormed a supermarket near the Porte de Vincennes neighborhood, killing the gunman who was holding at least five hostages. There were conflicting reports about the hostages' fate immediately after the siege was broken.

A police official said the suspected gunman in the supermarket attack, 32-year-old Amedy Coulabaly, is believed to be the same man who shot and killed a policewoman south of Paris on Thursday. Authorities are seeking a woman described as his accomplice, Hayet Boumeddiene.

Police sources have linked Coulabaly to the Kouachi brothers, suspected of slaughtering 12 people with high-powered weapons in Wednesday's Charlie Hebdo attack.

Chérif Kouachi, left, and Said Kouachi are shown in photos released by the Paris Préfecture de Police.

Chérif Kouachi, left, and Said Kouachi are shown in photos released by the Paris Préfecture de Police.

Before the gunshots erupted Friday afternoon in Dammartin-en-Goele, French security forces said they were in contact with the brothers, who had at least one hostage with them.

Dammartin-en-Goele is near Charles DeGaulle international airport. The local mayor has warned residents to stay indoors.

Map of Paris showing Dammartin-en-Goele and Porte de Vincennes

Map of Paris showing Dammartin-en-Goele and Porte de Vincennes

More than 88,000 police and security forces have been searching for the brothers. A third suspect in the Charlie Hebdo shootings, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, surrendered to police on Wednesday. His connection to the gunmen remains unclear.

In Thursday's shooting, a policewoman was gunned down while responding to a traffic accident in the Montrouge area just south of the capital.

Right now, we have to do everything to ensure the protection of our citizens," French President Francois Holland told government officials at a meeting Friday at the Interior Ministry in Paris, Reuters reported.

As a precaution, police on Friday also ordered the closing of all shops in central Paris' famed Jewish Marais neighborhood. It's about a kilometer from the Charlie Hedbo offices and much farther from the developing hostage situations. As The Associated Press reported, the district's Rosiers Street usually teems with tourists and with French Jews in the hours before the Sabbath.

Live video: Coverage from France 24

Radical Islamist ties

Both Kouachi brothers have links with radical Islam. Said, 34, received terrorist training in Yemen in 2011, The New York Times reported. Cherif, 32, is a former rapper who served prison time for his involvement in a Paris terrorist cell.

Hundreds of French nationals have headed to Iraq and Syria to join jihadist fighters.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultra-right National Front party, on Friday insisted the country must fight Islamic fundamentalism.

According to The Associated Press, she said Hollande had "assured me that a profound debate on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in our country will take place and that all the political parties will be listened to" regarding steps "to ensure the security of the country and our people."

The brothers appear to have been radicalized for some time, unlike other recent French jihadists, according to Franck Fregosi, a political scientist and expert on Islam.

Fregosi said the brothers' radicalization reflects a new trend, a sort of family event in which brothers and sisters may jointly turn to radical Islam.

Charlie Hebdo continues

Also Friday, the French newspaper Liberation made room for the surviving Charlie Hebdo journalists to prepare the satirical weekly’s next edition, due out Wednesday. The newspaper plans to print 1 million copies, 30 times its regular run.

The Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists have returned under heavy police protection, Reuters said.

"Since a long time, Charlie Hebdo and Liberation are seen, are like brothers. It's like a fraternity," Liberation editor Pierre Fraidenraich said. His paper had welcomed Charlie Hebdo staff after the newspaper was fire-bombed in 2011.

Fraidenraich said his newspaper would host the Charlie Hebdo team for "all the time they want."

Grieving for victims

Meanwhile, mourning continues for those killed at the satirical magazine known for making fun of all religions, including Islam – and for two policemen who were among the dead.

Parisians stood in silence in a chilly rain Thursday, holding up pens and pencils as a sign of the right to free speech. The lights of the Eiffel Tower dimmed Thursday night to honor the victims.

The U.N. Security Council held a moment of silence before Thursday's meeting.

President Barack Obama signed a book of condolence at the French embassy in Washington. He called the killings cowardly and evil.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, AFP and Reuters. VOA’s Peter Vaselopulos contributed to this report from near Dammartin-en-Goële.