Source Paris

Paris shooters cornered in printing plant. Brothers say they ‘want to die as martyrs’

DAMMARTIN-EN-GOELE, France • An official in the French town where two terror suspects are holed up with a hostage near a school tells The Associated Press that phone contact has been established with the men. A lawmaker inside the command post tells French television the men “want to die as martyrs.”

Audrey Taupenas, spokeswoman for Dammartin-en-Goele, says officials established phone contact with the suspects in order to negotiate the safe evacuation of a school near the printing plant where the men are cornered. She says the suspects agreed.

Yves Albarello, a lawmaker who said he was inside the command post, said the two brothers told i-Tele on Friday they “want to die as martyrs.”

The men are suspected in the attack against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

Security forces backed by a convoy of ambulances streamed into the small industrial town of Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, in a massive operation to seize the men suspected of carrying out France’s deadliest terror attack in decades.

One of the men had been convicted of terrorism charges in 2008, and a U.S. official said both brothers were on the American no-fly list.

At least three helicopters hovered above the town. Nearby Charles de Gaulle airport closed two runways to arrivals to avoid interfering in the standoff, an airport spokesman said. Schools went into lockdown and the town appealed to residents to stay inside their houses.

The siege unfolded after the suspects hijacked a car in the early morning hours, according to police and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the operation.

Tens of thousands of French security forces have mobilized to prevent a new terror attack since the Wednesday assault on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in the heart of Paris left 12 people dead, including the chief editor and cartoonist who had been under armed guard with threats against his life after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

His police bodyguard also died in the attack, which began during an editorial meeting.

Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi were named as the chief suspects after Said’s identity card was left behind in their abandoned getaway car. They were holed up Friday inside CTF Creation Tendance Decouverte, a printing house.

Xavier Castaing, the chief Paris police spokesman, and town hall spokeswoman Audrey Taupenas said there appeared to be one hostage inside. The police official, who was on the scene, confirmed a hostage.

Christelle Alleume, who works across the street, said 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.”

The police official said security forces were preparing to intervene. The town’s website called on residents to stay home and said children would be kept at school.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said both suspects had been known to intelligence services before the attack.

A senior U.S. official said Thursday the elder Kouachi had travelled to Yemen, although it was unclear whether he was there to join extremist groups like al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based there. Witnesses said he claimed allegiance to the group during the attack.

The younger brother, Cherif, was convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for his links to a network sending jihadis to fight American forces in Iraq.

Both were also on the U.S. no-fly list, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said. The American officials also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss foreign intelligence publicly.

French President Francois Hollande called for tolerance after the country’s worst terrorist attack in decades.

“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, were questioned for information on the attackers, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement.

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.

The Kouachi brothers, born in Paris to Algerian parents, were well-known to French counterterrorism authorities. Cherif Kouachi, a former pizza deliveryman, had appeared in a 2005 French TV documentary on Islamic extremism and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for trying to join up with fighters battling in Iraq.

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-Qaida 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.

Paris police officer shot dead, street sweeper wounded one day after Charlie Hebdo massacre

PARIS • An assailant opened fire on a police officer on the southern edge of Paris early Thursday, killing her and injuring a nearby street sweeper before fleeing, officials and a witness said.

France’s interior minister cautioned against jumping to conclusions a day after the deadly assault on a satirical newspaper that killed 12 people.

The attacker in the pre-dawn shooting Thursday remained at large, said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. It was not immediately clear whether the attack was linked to the assault on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in which two police officers were among the dead.

In the Thursday shooting, Cazeneuve said, the officer had stopped to investigate a traffic accident when the firing started. Paris police said the second victim was a street sweeper. The officer later died of her injuries, said Emmanuel Cravello of the Alliance police union.

“There was an officer in front of a white car and a man running away who shot,” said Ahmed Sassi, who saw the shooting from his home nearby.

Sassi said the shooter wore dark clothes but no mask. “It didn’t look like a big gun because he held it with one hand,” Sassi said.

Cazeneuve left an emergency government meeting to travel to the scene of the latest shooting. France is on its highest level of alert after the deadly attacks at Charlie Hebdo’s central Paris offices.

Paris terror attack at satirical newspaper that printed Mohammed cartoons leaves 11 dead

PARIS • Paris was put on the highest terrorist alert after at least 11 people were killed in shootings at the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in eastern Paris.

Four more people are in a critical state and an additional 20 have been injured, police said.

“France is in a state of shock after this terrorist attack,” French President Francois Hollande said. “An act of exceptional barbarity has been perpetrated against a newspaper, against liberty of expression, against journalists.”

The attackers are on the run, he said.

He said all potential terrorist targets have been put under the highest protection, adding that several possible attacks have been foiled in recent weeks.

An act of exceptional barbarity has been perpetrated against a newspaper, against liberty of expression, against journalists

Most of the victims were part of the magazine’s newsroom, Matthieu Lamarre, a spokesman for the Paris Mayor’s office, said. At least one of the dead is a police officer, he said.

Witnesses were cited by Europe 1 radio and Agence France-Presse as saying that two hooded people entered the offices of the magazine, shooting at random.

Several journalists fled to the roof, I-tele television reported.

Charlie Hebdo’s cover this week is on “Submission,” a book by Michel Houellebecq released today, which is sparking controversy with its depiction of a fictional France of the future led by an Islamic party and a Muslim president who bans women from the workplace.

Also today, the magazine on its Twitter account posted a cartoon depicting Islamic State Chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed in November 2011 after it published a special edition featuring the Prophet Mohammed as a “guest editor.” The fire caused no injuries.

The newspaper is owned by Les Editions Rotatives, a holding controlled by some of its reporters, and managers. Shareholders include cartoonist Cabu.

In his sixth novel, Houellebecq plays on fears that western societies are being inundated by the influence of Islam, a worry that this month drew thousands in anti-Islamist protests in Germany.

In the novel, Houellebecq has the imaginary “Muslim Fraternity” party winning a presidential election in France against the nationalist, anti-immigration National Front.

Houellebecq’s book is set in France in 2022. It has the fictional Muslim Fraternity’s chief, Mohammed Ben Abbes, beating Le Pen, with Socialists, centrists, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party rallying behind him to block the National Front.

Ben Abbes goes on to ban women in the workplace, advocates polygamy, pushes Islamic schools on the masses and imposes a conservative and religious vision of society.

The French widely accept the new environment, hence the book’s title.

More to come …