Manhunt after deadly Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack
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French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says there were "several arrests" overnight in the hunt for two suspects in the deadly shooting at a satirical newspaper.
A judicial source later confirmed Valls' statement, adding that seven people have been detained in the hunt for brothers suspected of gunning down 12 people in the terrorist attack.
The source, who refused to be named, said men and women close to the two brothers were currently being questioned by police, without saying where they had been detained.
Valls, meanwhile, told RTL radio that the two suspects -- who are still on the run -- were known to intelligence services and were "no doubt" being followed before Wednesday's attack.
Twelve people died in the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed in the brutal attack, said prosecutor Francois Molins, and 11 people were wounded - four of them seriously.
Police have issued arrest warrants for Cherif Kouachi, 32, a known jihadist convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters to Iraq, and his 34-year-old brother Said. Both were born in Paris. Cherif Kouachi was also known to French intelligence services for his his record of funneling jihadi fighters to Iraq.
The police published photos of the remaining suspects as they launched an appeal to the public for information. The police added that the brothers were “likely armed and dangerous”.
A third man, Mourad Hamyd, 18, surrendered at a police station in a small town in the eastern region after learning his name was linked to the attacks in the news and social media, said Paris prosecutor's spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre. She did not specify his relationship to the Kouachi brothers.
Day of teror in Paris
On Wednesday, the masked, black-clad men with assault rifles stormed the offices near Paris' Bastille monument in the midday attack on Charlie Hebdo, which had long drawn condemnation and threats - it was firebombed in 2011 - for its depictions of Islam, although it also satirized other religions and political figures.
The staff was in an editorial meeting and the gunmen headed straight for the paper's editor, Stephane Charbonnier - widely known by his pen name Charb - killing him and his police bodyguard first, said Christophe Crepin, a police union spokesman.
Shouting "Allahu akbar!'' as they fired, the men used fluent, unaccented French as they called out the names of specific employees.
Two gunmen strolled out to a black car waiting below, one of them calmly shooting a wounded police officer in the head as he writhed on the ground, according to video and a man who watched in fear from his home across the street.
“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,'' said the witness, who refused to allow his name to be used because he feared for his safety.
“Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo,'' one of the men shouted in French, according to video shot from a nearby building.
Connection to Yemeni terrorists?
One police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said they were linked to a Yemeni terrorist network, and Cedric Le Bechec, a witness who encountered the escaping gunmen, quoted the attackers as saying: “You can tell the media that it's al Qaeda in Yemen.''
After fleeing, the attackers collided with another vehicle, then carjacked another car before disappearing in broad daylight, Paris prosecutor Molins said.
The other dead were identified as cartoonists Georges Wolinski and Berbard Verlhac, better known as Tignous, and Jean Cabut, known as “Cabu.'' Also killed was Bernard Maris, an economist who was a contributor to the newspaper and was heard regularly on French radio.
One cartoon, released in this week's issue and titled “Still No Attacks in France,'' had a caricature of a jihadi fighter saying “Just wait - we have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes.'' Charb was the artist.
Fears had been running high in Europe that jihadis trained in warfare abroad would stage attacks at home. The French suspect in a deadly attack on a Jewish museum in Belgium had returned from fighting with extremists in Syria; and the man who rampaged in the south of France in 2012, killing three soldiers and four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse, received paramilitary training in Pakistan.
France unites after attack
In a somber address to the nation Wednesday night, French President Francois Hollande pledged to hunt down the killers, and pleaded with his compatriots to come together in a time of insecurity and suspicion.
“Let us unite, and we will win,'' he said. ``Vive la France!''
Thousands of people later jammed Republique Square near the site of the shooting to honour the victims, waving pens and papers reading “Je suis Charlie'' – “I am Charlie.'' Similar rallies were held in across France and in London's Trafalgar Square as well as Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and Brussels.
Social media was flooded the phrase, #JeSuisCharlie in solidarity with the slain journalists.
Tributes poured in from around the world. President Barack Obama offered US help in pursuing the gunmen, describing France as “America's oldest ally”. Britain’s David Cameron said his country stood united with France in defence of “free speech and democracy” while Russia’s Vladimir Putin condemned it as a “cynical crime,” pledging cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
A massive police operation was still under way Thursday morning, with thousands of officers hunting the attackers.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)
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