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Charlie Hebdo Suspects, Paris Hostage-Taker, Killed in Stunning Police Assault

Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said Kouachi – Charlie Hebdo © EYEPRESS NEWS / AFP


TERROR ATTACK ON FRENCH NEWSPAPER Two undated handout pictures released by French Police in Paris early 08 January 2015 show Cherif Kouachi, 32, (L) and his brother Said Kouachi, 34, (R) suspected in connection with the shooting attack at the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, France, 07 January 2015. French police on 08 January 2015 released an appeal to the public for information, with photos of Cherif Kouachi and his brother, Said Kouachi. (EyePress/French Police)

John Burger - published on 01/09/15

Coordinated response to linked hostage situations
In what appears to have been a coordinated assault, French police today stormed two hostage situations in and near Paris, killing the suspects in Wednesday’s massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine and a gunman who had ties to them.

The two suspects from Wednesday’s massacre, identified as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, were holed up Friday inside a printing facility in Dammartin-en-Goele, about 25 miles northeast of Paris. The one hostage they had been holding escaped.

“The operation in Dammartin is finished," a police union spokesman told the New York Times. "The two suspects have been killed and the hostage has been freed. The special counter-terrorism forces located where the terrorists are and broke down the door. They took them by surprise. It lasted a matter of minutes.”

Moments later, police stormed a kosher supermarket in Paris, killing a gunman was was holding several people. Four hostages were killed and five escaped. 

The gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, 32, one of two people wanted in Thursday’s deadly shooting of a policewoman south of Paris, had ties with at least one of the Kouachi brothers, suggesting that his hostage taking was meant to support their escape. The closely-timed storming of both sites by police also suggest that Coulibaly would have killed all his hostages if the Kouachi brothers had not been let go. 

CNN reported a witness saying Coulibaly demanded freedom for the Kouachi brothers.

But a police official earlier today said the Kouachi brothers wanted to die as martyrs. 
The New York Times quoted Mohamed Douhane, a senior police officer who is following the negotiations with the suspects:

"We have established communication with the Kouachi brothers,” he said…. “They said they wanted to die as martyrs. They are behaving like two determined terrorists who are certainly physically exhausted, but who want to escape with one last big show of force and heroic resistance. They feel trapped and know that their last hours have come.”

A third suspect in Wednesday’s terror attack on the office of the satirical magazine, 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, whose relationship to the Kouachi brothers was unclear, surrendered at a police station the same evening. 

Since then, a massive manhunt had engaged some 88,000 French police all over the country. Early on Friday, a French security official told the Associated Press that shots were fired as the Kouachi brothers stole a car in the town of Montagny Sainte Felicite. French officials told Fox News that the suspects threw the car’s driver out at the side of the road. The driver, who recognized the suspects, then called police and alerted them to the suspects’ whereabouts. 

When the two suspects entered the printing facility, there were reportedly four employees inside. Somehow, three escaped. 

Even before the hostage crisis at the kosher supermarket broke out, 
Paris police had issued an appeal for witnesses to locate Coulibaly and a woman thought to be his companion, Hayat Boumedienne, 26, as part of the investigation into Thursday’s shooting of a polce officer in Montrouge. "These people may be armed and dangerous," the appeal said.

Boumedienne reportedly escapted in the hostage standoff in Paris.

Aleteia’s French edition editor Judikael Hirel
reports that an atmosphere of civil war hangs over Paris, with quiet streets, empty shops, worried glances, and bulletproof vested police carrying heavy weapons.

"The attackers of Charlie Hebdo wanted to instill fear in souls. They succeeded," Hirel writes. 

Hirel points to what many are coming to realize, that the incidents of the past few days, and even beyond that, are the work of a French terrorist network. "We cannot yet talk about a terrorist network behind the tragedies that have affected Paris over last few hours, but the link is there: the Kouachi brothers surrounded by security forces in Dammartin-en-Goele, as well as Amedy Coulibaly, the suspected in the Montrouge killing, have a common past in the Buttes Chaumont jihadist network," he writes. 

According to Agence-France Presse, Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi in 2010 visited Djamel Beghal, a French radical Islamic figure condemned for terrorism. Coulibaly had been sentenced to five years in prison in December 2013 in connection with the escape of Islamist Smain Ait Belkacem, a former member of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group. Belkacem had been sentenced in 2002 to life imprisonment for the October 1995 attack at the Musée d’Orsay RER station. 

Fox News said that the Kouachi brothers were on a U.S. no-fly list. It quoted U.S. government sources confirming that Said Kouachi had traveled to Yemen in 2011 and had direct contact with an Al Qaeda training camp. The other brother, Cherif, had been convicted in France of terrorism charges in 2008 for trying to join up with fighters battling in Iraq.

Fox News was told the investigators have made it a priority to determine whether he had contact with Al Qaeda in Yemen’s leadership, including a bomb maker and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

The news outlet noted that 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 Qaeda have threatened France — home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.

"France is one of the largest contributing nations to the foreign fighter flow," national security expert Richard Brennan told Aleteia in the wake of Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo massacre. "That’s part of the problem they had with open immigration and the degree to which there’s not been assimilation of that community into French society. They have their own ways of living, their own societies, and they’ve been kind of growing apart from French society as a whole. it’s a problem for all of Europe in terms of the flow of going into Iraq and Syria and the flow coming back."

Fox pointed out that 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.

ABC News reported that Cherif Kouachi, along with six others, was sentenced in May 2008 to three years in prison for terrorism in Paris. All seven men were accused of sending about a dozen young Frenchmen to join Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, after funneling them through radical religious establishments in Syria and Egypt. French authorities believed Kouachi had been planning to go to Syria for training in 2005.

The New York Times yesterday also examined aspects of the lives of Western jihadis:

The massacre, which singled out cartoonists and other staff members at a newspaper that frequently mocked Islam, Christianity and all forms of religious and secular authority, left France stunned. It also raised questions about how Chérif Kouachi, so well known to the police for so many years, and his brother had managed to conceal their intentions. Part of the answer may be that they appear to have moved smoothly between normal immigrant society and an extremist Islamist underground. Born in the 10th Arrondissement, they came from secular backgrounds and initially drifted into petty delinquencies, not religious fanaticism.

Islamist Militants
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