French special forces launched coordinated raids to end two hostage situations on Friday, killing three gunmen, including the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Four hostages were killed in a kosher supermarket.
The raids ended a two-day manhunt for the attackers who killed 12 people on Wednesday when they stormed the offices of the satirical magazine known for lampooning Islam and other religions.
The gunmen, who claimed to be linked to Al-Qaeda’s Yemen faction, killed 10 of the magazine’s staff and two police officers in Wednesday’s attack. They reportedly said the attack was to avenge the Prophet Muhammad, as the magazine had printed cartoon depictions of him, an act considered blasphemous in Islam.
Two of the suspected attackers, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, led police on a chase for two days, while a third suspect, Mourad Hamyd, turned himself in. The Kouachi brothers, who were born in Paris, robbed a convenience store and hijacked a vehicle while on the loose.
In what appears to have been a related attack on Thursday morning in Montrouge, France, a policewoman and street sweeper were shot. Authorities named Amedy Coulibaly, 33, and Hayat Boumddiene, a 26-year-old woman, as suspects in that attack.
According to police, on Friday Coulibaly targeted the Porte de Vincennes kosher supermarket, threatening to kill 16 hostages in the market if the Kouachi brothers were apprehended by police.
BFM, a French television station, spoke with Cherif Kouachi and Coulibaly during the hostage-taking. Kouachi claimed both men were “sent by Al-Qaeda in Yemen,” and Coulibaly said he targeted the supermarket because “it was Jewish.” He claimed to have 16 hostages and said four had been killed.
At the same time as the supermarket hostage-taking, the Kouachi brothers were cornered on Friday afternoon at a print-works building in Dammartin-en-Goele, where they took one hostage, believed to be the manager of the building.
French special forces stormed both hostage locations at the same time, and explosions and gunfire broke out at both places. According to police, seven people died in total: four hostages at the supermarket, the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly.
The hostage at the print-works building survived the incident, and an unconfirmed number of hostages from the grocery store also survived.
Agence France-Presse’s photo department tweeted this photo showing hostages being freed at the supermarket:
French President François Hollande addressed the nation after the raids. “I want to salute the police and all those who participated in the operations. I want to tell them we are proud of you.... Unity is our best weapon,” he said. Hollande also confirmed a meeting with world leaders on Sunday.
“I call on all French men and women to get up together this Sunday to demonstrate the values of democracy, liberty and pluralism,” he said.
President Barack Obama addressed the events in France during a speech in Tennessee. “France is our oldest ally. I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have been directly impacted. We grieve with you.”
According to reports in The Guardian and Le Monde, Cherif Kouachi and Coulibaly were previously part of the same criminal investigation and were associates of Djamel Beghal, a convicted terrorist.
The Associated Press reported that a member of Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen said the group directed the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Experts are concerned that if they were indeed part of a terrorist cell linked to the Yemeni affiliate of Al-Qaeda, this would signal a worrisome change in tactics for the terrorist group.
Boumddiene, the woman suspected in Thursday’s shootings, remains on the loose, her whereabouts unknown. Police have called her “armed and dangerous.”
Additional reporting by Lucy Draper.