French police executed raids Friday to end two hostage standoffs, one of which involved the two alleged gunmen in the Charlie Hebdo massacre. According to the Associated Press, citing a police official, the gunmen died in the raid. Police freed the hostage taken at the printing facility that was the site of the raid.
A police official told the Associated Press that French commandos moved in when the two men, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, 32 and 34, respectively, emerged from the printing facility and began firing at police. Unbeknownst to the brothers, an employee at the printing facility was hiding beneath a sink. Some media reports indicate he was feeding information to the police.
French police released this video of the raid that ended the stand-off:
Moments after striking the facility and killing both gunmen, police also stormed a kosher grocery store in Paris where a gunman had taken at least five hostages. According to Le Monde, the gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, is dead.
In a statement issued to the Intercept, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo. “The leadership of #AQAP directed the operation, and they have chosen their target carefully as a revenge for the honor of Prophet,” reads the statement, which the Intercept says was provided by “a source” in the terror group. “The target was in France in particular because of its obvious role in the war on Islam and oppressed nations.” The claim of responsibility by AQAP was also reported by the AP.
In an address to the nation Friday, French President François Hollande confirmed that four hostages died in what he described as a “terrifying anti-Semitic attack” on the grocery store. “We need to show our determination against anything and everything that can divide us. We should be firm against racism and anti-Semitism,” Hollande said. “We are a free nation that does not give in. We carry an ideal that is greater than us.”
This television still shows the moment the raid in Paris began:
Photo: Moment police stormed Kosher grocery store just moments ago pic.twitter.com/gLRIIR6QFr
— Conflict News (@rConflictNews) January 9, 2015
Some 88,000 police were involved in a huge manhunt that culminated in a hostage crisis three days after the attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
The Kouachi brothers believed to have been responsible for the massacre seized a printing facility northeast of Paris, where they became engaged in a stand-off with police. Heavily armed French police converged on the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, where the Kouachi brothers had holed up. Police appear to have had established contact with the two men, as one lawmaker told a reporter that the two men have informed negotiators that they “want to die as martyrs.”
French commandos were spotted moving on the roof of the printing facility. Helicopters circled the area, and military equipment, including at least one tank, was photographed moving toward the area.
Separately, a gunman burst into a kosher grocery store in Paris and took at least five hostages. The man police say is responsible is Coulibaly, a 32-year-old with links to one of the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
He burst into the grocery story on Friday morning after the standoff with the Kouachi brothers began. One person is reported to have been gravely injured at the grocery store. Police have released photographs of the suspects, which include Coulibaly and his former partner, Hayat Boumeddiene. Coulibaly is suspected to have carried out the Thursday murder of a French policewoman. Boumeddiene is also wanted in connection with the murder. She remains at-large.
French police have released these photographs of the two suspects:
— Antoine Kowalski (@antoinekowalski) January 9, 2015
Fearing additional similar attacks, French police shut down shops along a prominent street in one historically Jewish community.
Incredibly, French television station BFM interviewed both Cherif Kouachi and Coulibaly prior to their demise at the hands of police, according to an account of the conversations in Le Monde.
When reporters at the station called numbers belonging to individuals believed to have been at the print shop, Cherif picked up. A short interview was then conducted, during which Cherif told the station that he had been sent on the mission by “al Qaeda in Yemen” and financed by the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. The conversation occurred at 9:45 a.m.
Awlaki was killed in a September 2011 drone strike believed to have been carried out by the United States. Reuters reports that Said Cherif met with the cleric during a visit to Yemen that year.
At 3 p.m., a man purporting to be Coulibaly called the same station. The editor in chief interviewed the man, who told him that there were four dead inside the grocery store. A Paris official said late Friday that it is likely the four dead in the grocery store perished at Coulibaly’s hand and not during the police raid.
Coulibaly, who has been implicated in the murder of a policewoman Thursday, also told the station that he coordinated his attacks with the Kouachi brothers: “Them Charlie Hebdo, me the police.”
Journalists at the television station refrained from publishing the material before the police moved in and passed on their recordings of the interviews to police.
In a late-night press conference Friday, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said that Coulibaly was identified when police pulled his DNA from a cloth found near the scene of Thursday’s murder of a policewoman just south of Paris.
Molins also provided additional evidence for the connection between Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers, saying that Coulibaly and Boumeddiene had spoken to another more than 500 times over the phone.
Molins said that five people remain in detention and that the hunt for Boumeddiene continues. Those detained include one of the Kouachi brothers’ wife.
Also on Friday, Le Monde published photographs of Coulibaly and Boumeddiene visiting Djamel Beghal, an Algerian militant thought to have served as a mentor to Cherif Kouachi while both men were in prison. In the photographs, Beghal and Coulibaly are seen hiking through green hills. Coulibaly and Boumeddiene are also photographed firing crossbows.
–Foreign Policy fellow Siobhán O’Grady contributed reporting to this post.
DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images