TORONTO – Both Charlie Hebdo suspects were killed after police stormed the building where the suspects were holed up for more than five hours.
Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, had been on the run since the deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices on Wednesday that left 12 people dead. The two men were reportedly connected to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
A security official told the Associated Press the two brothers came out firing, prompting the assault on the building.
One man was taken hostage during the standoff. The man safely made it out of the building during the police operation.
Simultaneously, police forces stormed a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris where a gunman took several people hostage Friday afternoon.
An Israeli government official told the Associated Press, 15 hostages were rescued and four were killed in the supermarket hostage drama.
The gunman was also killed.
Addressing the country, French President Francois Hollande called the attack on the kosher supermarket an “appalling anti-Semitic act.”
“Those who committed these acts have nothing to do with Islam,” Hollande said.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised the bravery of police and officials who helped take down the hostage takers.
“I express my gratitude, on behalf of all the French, those police officers who acted with great professionalism and bravery,” Cazeneuve said. “My gratitude also goes to firefighters who risked their lives from the beginning.”
The interior minister said the country will remain “highly mobilized to ensure French security.”
“Recognizing these challenges, we are working to be more effective in the fight against terrorism,” Cazeneuve said.
Paris police named Amedy Coulibaly, 33, as the hostage-taker and the suspect in the killing of a female police officer in Montrouge on Thursday. A second suspect, a woman named Hayet Boumddiene, 26, is the gunman’s accomplice. Her whereabouts are unknown.
A police source told Reuters earlier that Coulibaly was a member of the same jihadist group as the two suspects in the attack at weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.
According to France 24, Coulibaly did a pre-recorded an interview with French news station BFMTV, saying he coordinated the attacks with the Kouachi brothers.
The news station also reportedly recorded a phone interview with Cherif Kouachi, saying he was sent and financed by al-Qaida in Yemen.
A member of al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen said Friday afternoon the group directed the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
Police ordered all shops closed in a famed Jewish neighbourhood in central Paris, the Associated Press reported.
The mayor’s office in Paris announced the closures Friday of shops along the Rosiers street in Paris’ Marais neighbourhood, in the heart of the tourist district.
Hostage situation north of Paris
Earlier Friday, Yves Albarello, a local lawmaker who said he was inside the command post for the operation north of Paris told French television station i-Tele that the hostage-takers had said “they want to die as martyrs.”
A spokesman for Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport said two runways have been closed as a result of the police operation.
Several schools were evacuated in the town.
Local media spoke with a client of the printing firm where the gunmen were holed up.
“It’s a family business,” the unidentified man told France 24. “It’s run by Michel Catalano, his wife and his son, as well as two employees.”
On Friday, a Yemeni security official told the Associated Press that Said Kouachi is suspected of having fought for al-Qaida in the country.
Nearly 88,000 members of security forces were involved in the manhunt.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said nine people have been taken into police custody as part of the investigation.
A United States intelligence official told the Associated Press on Thursday the brothers were in the U.S. database of suspected terrorists, and had been on an American no-fly list for years.
A third suspect, identified as Hamyd Mourad, surrendered to police early Thursday. The 18-year-old has yet to be charged.
One French official told the Associated Press Cherif Kouachi was convicted in 2008 of terrorism charges and served an 18-month prison sentence for helping send fighters to join Iraq’s insurgency.
French prosecutor Francois Molins said Charlie Hebdo staff members were gathered for a meeting when the assailants opened fire, killing eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor. He said another 11 people were wounded — four of them seriously.
Among those killed was the paper’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, Bernard Maris, an economist who was a contributor to the newspaper, cartoonists Georges Wolinski and Berbard Verlhac, better known as Tignous, and Jean Cabut, known by the pen-name Cabu.
IN PHOTOS: Manhunt for suspects following Paris terror attack
Police union spokesman Christophe Crepin told the Associated Press the gunmen knew exactly whom they wanted to target. “(They) went straight for Charb and his police bodyguard, killing both immediately with automatic weapons, then firing on others,” Crepin said.
The gunmen then fled from the building and escaped in a waiting car, which was later found abandoned.
During their escape, the masked men encountered three separate police patrols, where gunfire was exchanged.
Video showed the gunmen firing on a police officer, with one gunman walking up to the wounded officer and executing him at point-blank range.
According to Molins, witnesses heard the men shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is great) during the assault.
Speaking with the Associated Press, a witness described the attackers as “methodical.”
“They knew exactly what they had to do and exactly where to shoot. While one kept watch and checked that the traffic was good for them, the other one delivered the final coup de grace,” the witness, who did not want to be identified, told the news agency. “They ran back to the car. The moment they got in, the car drove off almost casually.”
Amateur video, shot from a nearby rooftop, shows at least two men dressed in black exchanging gunfire with police before fleeing.
Local media reported the men saying that they had “avenged the prophet.”
The weekly magazine has previously drawn condemnation from Muslims and had been repeatedly threatened for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, among other controversial sketches.
A witness who works nearby, Benoit Bringer, told the iTele network he saw multiple masked men armed with automatic weapons at the newspaper’s office in central Paris. The attackers went to the second floor and started firing indiscriminately in the newsroom, said Christophe DeLoire of Reporters Without Borders.
“This is the darkest day of the history of the French press,” he said.
-with files from The Associated Press