World Bulletin/News Desk
The two Kouachi brothers wanted over the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris are reported to have been killed in a shoot-out at a building they were holed up in in a French village.
French news agency reported the pair were dead after explosions and gunfire erupted at the scene of a standoff between police and Said Kouachi, 34, and Cherif Kouachi, 32.
Blasts and heavy gunfire were heard and smoke was seen drifting from around the small printing business in the village of Dammartin-en-Goele, 25 miles (42 kilometers) northeast of Paris on Friday where the French Algerians had taken refuge.
Earlier, police had chased a vehicle at high speed along a main road heading towards Paris as one of France's biggest security operations in recent times unfolded. Gunshots rang out and the suspects abandoned their car in Dammartin-en-Goele, a small town of about 8,000 residents.
Police trucks, ambulances and armoured vehicles descended on the area close to Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport after the suspects took refuge with at least one hostage in a building on an industrial estate, according to police sources.
Police quickly blocked all entrances to the town seeking to limit the scale of any siege and confine the suspects, French-born sons of Algerian-born parents. Residents were asked to stay off the streets.
"All residents are requested to remain at home. Children are to be kept safe in school," the municipal website said.
Separately, a police source told Reuters that the man who killed a policewoman in a southern suburb of Paris on Thursday and fled the scene was a member of the same group as the two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
The source said the three men were all members of the same Paris cell that a decade ago sent young French volunteers to Iraq to fight U.S. forces. Cherif Kouachi served 18 months in prison for his role in the group.
The Interior Ministry referred to the operation as a "hostage situation", without disclosing details, and also warned local residents to stay at home while the operation was ongoing.
A salesman told France Info radio that he had shaken hands with one of the suspects when the pair arrived at the printing business at 8.30 a.m. (0730GMT) on Friday morning.
'We don’t kill civilians'
The man, who gave his name as Didier, said he thought the man, who was dressed in black and heavily armed, was a special operations police officer.
He said he was told to leave, with the gunman saying: "Go, we don’t kill civilians."
"As I left I didn’t know what it was, it wasn’t normal. I did not know what was going on. Was it a hostage taking or a burglary?" Didier added.
In a speech to the French public, President Francois Hollande praised "international solidarity" in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Reports that two people had been killed in a shootout with police were denied in a tweet posted by the French Interior Ministry.
Staff at the magazine have declared they will go to press as usual next Wednesday and print one million copies of a special edition of the satirical publication.
Last Mod: 09 Ocak 2015, 19:00