8 Jan 2015

Charlie Hebdo attack suspects sighted in northern France

Two brothers named as suspects in the attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are reported to have robbed a petrol station in northern France.

Cherif and Said Kouachi, both in their early thirties, reportedly robbed at a petrol station near Villers-Cotterets. The two men were said to be in a grey Renault Clio with weapons in the back.

They fired shots and stole food and petrol, according to French media reports. Later, the men apparently abandoned their car and fled into a forest.

Bruno Fortier, mayor of neighbouring Crepy-en-Valois said that helicopters were circling his town and police and anti-terrorism forces have since deployed en masse.

Earlier police said the two brothers were armed and dangerous. Both men are of Algerian descent. A third suspect surrendered to police.

The attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo was the worst terrorist attack carried out in the country for half a century. Twelve people were killed and 11 more injured before the attackers sped away from Paris in a second getaway car.

Police surrounded the city of Reims during the night and stormed blocks of flats. One of the suspects had apparently been identified by an identity card left in the first getaway car, a black Citroen.

AFP reported that molotov cocktails and jihadist flags were found in the abandoned Citroen.

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Police prosecutors said a third suspect – named as 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad – had turned himself in to police at a station in Charleville-Mézières, a small town near France’s border with Belgium.

Nine people were in custody on Thursday evening in relation to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, said Bernard Cazeneuve, minister for the interior.

France remains on its highest level of alert after the attack.

Meanwhile, MI5’s spy chief Andrew Parker says the agency is providing “full support” to their French counterparts in the hunt for the gunmen and the jihadi terrorist organisations behind the massacre.

In a late addition to a planned speech tonight MI5’s director general says: “It’s too early for us to come to judgements about the precise details or origin of the attack but it is a terrible reminder of the intentions of those who wish to harm us. As you would expect, we are offering our French colleagues our full support as they respond”.

Home Affairs Correspondent Simon Israel:
Support would obviously include highly detailed intelligence analysis of the background of the three assassins and their connections.
As the UK has learnt from past experiences with 7/7 and the Woolwich murder of Lee Rigby, attackers have often popped on the radar but not seen at the time as serious potential threats.

Charlie Hebdo has angered muslims in the past after printing cartoons depicting the prohet Muhammad. Its offices were targeted in a 2011 arson attack, and editor-in-chief Stephanie Charbonnier was included in an al-Qaeda wanted list published in 2013.

Read more: Who are the Charlie Hebdo victims?

The attack appeared to have been carefully planned and happened when an editorial meeting was taking place, meaning more staff members than usual were in the office. Workers elsewhere in the building fled to the roof as the attack took place.

One witness said he had heard 40-50 gunshots before seeing two people fleeing in a Citroen C1.

The first image from inside the office after the shooting was posted on Twitter, showing blood spattered along a hallway and on papers strewn on the floor.

Graphic video footage was posted online showing two men dressed in black shooting and injuring a police officer in the street before running over to shoot the officer dead on the pavement. The two men then return to a black Citroen stopped in the road before speeding away.


After the attack, vigils were held in cities across Europe in a tribute to those killed in the attacks.

France is holding a day of mourning with flags lowered to half-mast across the country. People gathered for a minute’s silence outside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.