Charlie Hebdo brothers killed in storming of warehouse: reports
PARIS – Police have stormed two hostage sites, one in Paris and the other in the northern village of Dammartin-en-Goele in a coordinated action. All three gunmen, including the two brothers believed to be behind the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this week, have been killed, police said.
At least four hostages who were held by Amedy Coulibaly in a kosher supermarket in southern Paris have also been killed, French media quoted police sources as saying - however, police have as yet to issue an official statement. Coulibaly, 32, was said to be wearing body armour and armed with two Kalashnikov automatic weapons. Several hostages were later seen being led away by police, with some French media saying that around a dozen people had been freed following the police raid in the late afternoon. However, at least one policeman is believed to have been injured as police raided the supermarket.
After the raid, ambulances sped away from the scene - paramedics were seen inside working furiously on at least one patient. The raid lasted little more than 30 seconds, according to Washington Post correspondent Griff Witte. After hostages were led away, police combed the site for booby traps and searched the back of the shop, reportedly searching for accomplices.
Police moved in to end the siege when they heard Coulibaly begin to pray, the Telegraph reports - a telephone that had not been fully replaced in its socket allowed security services to listen in to what was happening in the besieged supermarket.
Confusion surrounds a second person thought to have been holding shoppers hostage alongside Coulibaly - CNN reports that a woman who was working with Coulibaly escaped following the raid.
Survivors of the siege told French news site RTL that Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly's 26-year old girlfriend, was working with him during the siege.
However, Sky News reports that the escaped accomplice was male - the situation in Porte de Vincennes remains unclear, with police undertaking a sweep of the area.
Coulibaly has also been named as the main suspect in the fatal shooting of a policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe, 27, who was unarmed and directing traffic in Montrouge, in southern Paris, when she was gunned down on Thursday afternoon.
The revelation that Coulibaly was thought to be behind both attacks has led the police to link him to the Kouachi brothers, who are believed to have murdered 12 people in and around the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine on Wednesday.
The two main suspects behind the Charlie Hebdo attack, Cherif and Said Kouachi, had been holed up in Dammartin-en-Goele, which is home to some 8,000 people, and rests 42 kilometres north-east of Paris.
At an industrial park in Dammartin-en-Goele a hostage held by two brothers was freed following a police raid on a warehouse.
Fears had been high throughout much of the afternoon that the three men were planning to cause another bloodbath, and were particularly heightened after Coulibaly threatened to kill the hostages at the kosher supermarket if police launched a raid on the Dammartin-en-Goele warehouse. Within minutes of police moving in to the warehouse, teams also moved to break the supermarket siege in Paris.
The panic of the dual attack brought much of Paris and its suburbs to a standstill, with some main roads closed by police, and some flights unable to land at Paris's main Charles de Gaulle airport which is close to Dammartin-en-Goele. Schools also had to be placed under protection, with France remaining on the highest terror threat level throughout the day.
Translation: Ring road closed, tube stopped, closed schools: a day of extreme tension in #Paris
According to police Coulibaly was believed to belong to the Buttes Chaumont network, which operates out of the 19th arrondissement of Paris and is known for sending fighters to Iraq. The Kouachi brothers were also linked to the group.
“He was in the same Buttes Chaumount cell as the Kouachi brothers,” said a source close to the investigation. “He was friends of both of them.”
Two of Coulibaly's relatives were arrested in nearby Grigny, south of Paris, during a police raid this morning.
Like the Kouachis, Coulibaly is known to have been radicalised by an Islamic preacher in Paris, before expressing a wish to fight in Iraq or Syria.
Both Said Kouachi, 34, and his brother Cherif Kouachi, 33, were first arrested in 2005.
Cherif was sentenced in 2008 to three years in prison, with 18 months suspended, for his association with Buttes Chaumont.
According to police, he had wanted to fly to Iraq via Syria, and was found with a manual for a Kalashnikov – the automatic weapon used in Wednesday’s attack.
Said was freed after questioning by police but – like his brother – was known to have been radicalised after the Iraq War of 2003, when US-led forces moved in to depose former president Saddam Hussein.
Both brothers were said to be infuriated by the killing of Muslims by Western soldiers and war planes.
Vincent Olliviers, Cherif’s lawyer at the time, described him as initially being an “apprentice loser - a delivery boy in a cap who smoked hashish and delivered pizzas to buy his drugs”.
But Ollivier said the “clueless kid who did not know what to do with his life met people who gave him the feeling of being important”.
After his short prison sentence, Cherif was in 2010 linked with a plot to free Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, the mastermind of the1995 bombing of the St Michel metro station in Paris that killed eight people and wounded more than 100 more.
Belkacem was a leading members of the GIA, or Armed Islamic Army – an Algerian terror outfit responsible for numerous atrocities.
The Kouachi brothers were orphans, and were raised in foster care in Rennes, in western France, with Cherif training as a fitness instructor before moving to Paris.
They lived in the 19th arrondissement and were radicalised by Farid Benyettou, a janitor-turned-preacher who gave sermons calling for fighters to go to Iraq. His Buttes Chaumont recruitment group, named after a Paris park, is known to have sent at least a dozen young men to fight in Iraq.
The Kouachis share similar backgrounds to Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old French Algerian responsible for murdering seven people, including four Jews and three Muslim soldiers, in the Toulouse area in 2012.
Merah, who was himself shot dead by police, had also been left to operate in France, despite the authorities knowing he had trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Last year Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French Algerian, was arrested in Marseille in connection with an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels that left four people dead. He denies any crimes, and is currently on remand in Belgium.