France fears more attacks, armed woman suspect at large
Key members of the French government will meet Saturday morning to decide on new measures aimed at thwarting a repeat of the attacks in Paris that culminated in a massacre of 12 people at a satirical newspaper, and a supermarket bloodbath that left four hostages dead.
World leaders have telephoned President Francois Hollande to express their personal sympathies. On Sunday Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron as well as Italy’s Matteo Renzi, and Spain’s Mariano Rajoy have agreed to join in a unity rally in central Paris.
With explosions and gunfire, security forces on Friday ended the three days of terror, killing the two al Qaeda-linked brothers who staged a murderous rampage at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and an accomplice who seized hostages at a kosher supermarket to try to help the brothers escape.
Twenty people are dead, including the three gunmen. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene – the common law wife of the market attacker – is still at large and believed to be armed.
Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen said it directed the attack against the publication Charlie Hebdo to avenge the honor of the Prophet Mohammed, a frequent target of the weekly’s satire.
The brothers were not unknown to authorities: One had a terrorism-related conviction for ties to a network sending fighters to battle American forces in Iraq, and both were on the US no-fly list, according to a US official.
Hollande urged his nation to remain united and vigilant, and the city shut down a central Jewish neighborhood following fears of more violence.
The threats facing France are not finished,” Hollande said. “We are a free people who don’t cave to pressure.”
The drama, which played out on live TV and social media, began with the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi methodically massacring 12 people Wednesday at the Charlie Hebdo offices.
On Thursday, a gunman that police identified as Amedy Coulibaly shot a policewoman to death south of Paris and, on Friday he attacked the Paris supermarket killing four hostages and threatening more violence unless the police let the Kouachis go.
The attackers had ties both to each other and to terrorist activities that reached back years and extended from Paris to al Qaeda in Yemen. They epitomized Western authorities’ greatest fear: Islamic radicals who trained abroad and came home to stage attacks.
It all ended at dusk Friday with near-simultaneous raids in two locations: a printing plant in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, where the Kouachis were holed up, and the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.
As scores of black-clad security forces surrounded both sites, booming explosions, heavy gunfire and dense smoke heralded the news that the twin sieges finally had ended.
The three gunmen were dead – but the authorities also discovered four dead hostages at the market. Sixteen hostages were freed, one from the printing plant and 15 others from the store.
After the killings at the Charlie Hebdo offices, Cherif Kouachi, 32, and his 34-year-old brother Said led police on a chase around northeastern France, before ending up at the printing plant in Dammartin-en-Goele, near Charles de Gaulle airport.
Authorities said the brothers temporarily took a man hostage at the plant but let him go.
A member of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula gave a statement in English to The Associated Press saying the group’s leadership “directed the operations and they have chosen their target carefully.”
The attack was in line with warnings from the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to the West about “the consequences of the persistence in the blasphemy against Muslim sanctities,” the member said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the group’s regulations do not permit him to give his name.
The brothers were cornered there for much of the day before the explosions and gunfire rang out in the twilight and a police SWAT team clambered onto the roof.
“They said they want to die as martyrs,” Yves Albarello, a local lawmaker inside the command post, told French television station, i-Tele.
At the kosher grocery near the Porte de Vincennes neighborhood of the capital, the gunman burst in shooting just a few hours before the Jewish Sabbath began, declaring “You know who I am,” the official recounted.
The attack came before sundown when the store would have been crowded with shoppers, and Hollande called it “a terrifying anti-Semitic act.”
Coulibaly killed the four people in the market shortly after entering, Molins said.