Al Qaeda Yemen claims Charlie Hebdo attack as twin sieges end
Four hostages and gunman killed in Paris supermarket; Both massacre suspects dead
Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen claimed it directed the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris as the brothers suspected of the massacre have been killed and a third man who held hostages in a Paris supermarket has been shot dead.
Four hostages were killed in the siege in the kosher supermarket in Paris.
French president Francois Hollande called for the country to “remain vigilant” as he praised the “courage, bravery and efficiency” of the police forces. He described the hostage-taking in the supermarket as “an appalling anti-Semitic act”.
Shortly before 4.00pm (Irish time) gunfire and explosions were heard at the printworks at Dammartin-en-Goele where brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi were holed up with a hostage.
According to reports, the men engaged police with gunfire before being killed. The hostage at the printworks was freed.
Automatic gunfire rang out, followed by blasts and then silence as smoke could be seen billowing from the roof of the print shop. Amid thick fog, a helicopter landed on the building’s roof, signalling the end of the assault.
A government source said the brothers had emerged from the building and opened fire on police before they were killed. Before his death, one of the Kouachi brothers told a television station he had received financing from an al Qaeda preacher in Yemen.
A short time later several explosions were heard at the site of a siege in a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. The gunman there, Amedy Coulibaly, as well as four hostages were killed. An Israeli official said 15 hostages were freed.
Earlier on Friday, French police linked Coulibaly to the killing of policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe in Montrouge on Thursday.
Al Qaida’s branch in Yemen on Friday night claimed it had directed the attack against the French satirical magazine “as revenge for the honour” of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.
A member of the terror group gave a statement to AP which said “the leadership of AQAP directed the operations and they have chosen their target carefully”.
He said the attack was in line with warnings from the late al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to the West about “the consequences of the persistence in the blasphemy against Muslim sanctities”. He said the group delayed its declaration of responsibility for “security reasons”.
US president Barack Obama pledged US support to the people of France. “I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow,” he said during a trip to Tennessee.
Hours later, a gunman seized a number of hostages at a kosher market in eastern Paris, France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said.
A police official told the Associated Press the man who took five people hostage in a kosher market appeared to be linked to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. He had threatened to kill five hostages if police launched an assault on the cornered brothers.
Some 40 kilometres to the north, French security forces had poured into Dammartin-en-Goele, near Charles de Gaulle airport, after the two terror suspects hijacked a car early today in a nearby town.
One of the men had been convicted of terrorism charges in 2008, the other had visited Yemen. A US official said both brothers – 32-year-old Cherif Kouachi and 34-year-old Said Kouachi – were on the American no-fly list.
“They said they want to die as martyrs,” Yves Albarello, a local politician who said he was inside the command post, told French television station i-Tele.
At least three helicopters hovered over the town and authorities appealed for residents to stay inside.
Charles de Gaulle closed two runways to arrivals to avoid interfering in the standoff or endangering planes.
Authorities evacuated a school near the CTF Creation Tendance Decouverte printing plant at around midday local time after the suspects agreed by phone to allow the children safe passage, town spokeswoman Audrey Taupenas told the AP. About an hour later, a reporter counted nine large empty buses headed towards the area, apparently to evacuate the children.
A man who said he had his car stolen early today told Europe 1 the first man who approached him had a machine gun and the second man had a gun “with a kind of grenade at the end”.
Cherif and Said Kouachi were named as the chief suspects after Said’s identity card was left behind in their abandoned getaway car. Prime minister Manuel Valls has said both suspects had been known to intelligence services before the attack.
A senior US official said the elder Kouachi had travelled to Yemen, although it was unclear whether he was there to join extremist groups such as al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based there. Witnesses said he claimed allegiance to the group during the attack.
The younger brother, Cherif, was convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for his links to a network sending jihadis to fight American forces in Iraq.
Nine people, members of the brothers’ entourage, have been detained for questioning in several regions. In all, 90 people, many of them witnesses to the grisly assault on the satirical weekly, were questioned for information on the attackers, interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.
A third suspect, 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, surrendered at a police station on Wednesday evening after hearing his name linked to the attacks. His relationship to the Kouachi brothers was unclear.
The Kouachi brothers, born in Paris to Algerian parents, were well-known to French counterterrorism authorities. Cherif Kouachi, a former pizza deliveryman, had appeared in a 2005 French TV documentary on Islamic extremism and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for trying to join up with fighters battling in Iraq.
Charlie Hebdo had long drawn threats for its depictions of Islam, although it also satirised other religions and political figures. The weekly paper had caricatured the Prophet Mohammed, and a sketch of Islamic State’s leader was the last tweet sent out by the irreverent newspaper, minutes before the attack. Nothing has been tweeted since.
Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed in the attack. Charlie Hebdo planned a special edition next week, produced in the offices of another paper.
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 IS and al Qaida have threatened France, home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.
– Additional reporting: agencies