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Three suspects dead as French police free hostages

The Kouachi brothers and a gunman who seized a Paris supermarket were killed as French authorities stormed both hostage sites simultaneously.

Four hostages were found dead inside a kosher supermarket in Paris after police stormed the store, killing the gunman who was armed with an AK-47. The assault ended the third deadly attack in a 54-hour string of terror that seized the city beginning on Wednesday. 

Other hostages in the grocery store attack were freed and the gunman was identified as Amedy Coulibaly, a known associate of Chérif and Säid Kouachi. One officer was severely hurt during the assault, three other officers and two civilians were also injured in the assault, French prosecutor Francois Molins said Friday.

The Kouachis, suspects in the shooting that took place at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo earlier in the week, were killed by police on Friday after being holed up in a printing shop with one hostage, who was safely freed. Officials continued to search for one woman, Hayat Boumedienne, the companion of Coulibaly.

The simultaneous raids end a string of attacks -- thought to be related -- that have gripped France since the Kouachis allegedly gunned down eight journalists and four others at the Charlie Hebdo in Paris. 3

As night fell on the French capital and the threat appeared to have been neutralized, the city sought to assess the damage and begin the recovery process. On the Arc de Triomphe, a sign at the top read "Paris est Charlie" -- or Paris is Charlie. 

President François Hollande delivered a live address Friday confirming the deaths, bringing the death toll of innocent Parisians to at least 17. France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazaneuve confirmed on television that four police officers were injured at the supermarket, as well.

Hollande called the Paris supermarket attack an "atrocious anti-Semitic" act and urged the French to be united. “I assure you that we will come out stronger out of this challenge,” Hollande said. “Vive la France.”

Obama said Friday in Knoxville, Tennessee, that the U.S. is “hopeful that the immediate threat is now resolved” in Paris. “But the French government continues to face the threat of terrorism and has to stay vigilant. The situation is fluid.”

On Thursday, as France mourned its dead and police undertook a manhunt for the brothers, a police officer was killed and a street sweeper wounded in the southern end of the city in what later was determined to be the second attack. Two suspects -- Coulibaly, 32, and Boumedienne, 26 -- are wanted for that shooting.

Coulibaly and Chérif Kouachi had known each other for at least four years; they were charged together in 2010 with a plot to free a terrorist from prison, after he had been convicted of blowing up a French train facility. Officials are still seeking Boumedienne. She has not yet been linked to the supermarket hostage situation, though police had originally said they were looking for two suspects -- one man and one woman.

The stunning violence that struck Paris on Wednesday was seen as an attack on freedom of speech. By Friday, Jewish targets appeared to be the focus. Thursday's shooting occurred across the street from a Jewish school while Friday's hostage situation was taking place at a kosher store in a heavily Jewish neighborhood as residents prepared for the Sabbath. Authorities cordoned off the Marais, city's historic Jewish center, which had also been the site of the Goldenberg deli terrorist attack in 1982. Nearly 100,000 security personnel were on alert across France by Friday.

Stand-off in northern Paris: Printing shop

After a three-day manhunt that crisscrossed a 140-mile range around Paris, police spotted the Kouachi brothers Friday in Dammartin-en-Goële, a bedroom community just five miles from the city's international airport. According to officials in the town, there was an exchange of gunfire before the brothers fled into a family-owned printing shop where they held one man hostage.

The brothers, French citizens who were both in their 30s, were "armed and dangerous," according to police. Sources told NBC News the suspects told police at the printing shop that they wanted to die as martyrs. Authorities believe one, if not both of the Kouachi brothers had military training. Säid Kouachi, 34, traveled to Yemen in 2011 to be trained by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), two senior U.S. counterterrorism officials told NBC News. AQAP is considered the most violent branch of al Qaida. Molins said on Friday that he had been question in the past, but never charged with a crime.

Chérif Kouachi, 32, was sentenced to prison in 2008 after a Paris court found him and six other men guilty of helping funnel fighters to Iraq. A Homeland Security official told NBC News that the brothers have been on the U.S. no-fly list “for years.”

During the stand-off, Dammartin-en-Goële was completely sealed off, with military-manned checkpoints; helicopters circled overhead while hundreds of heavily armed anti-terror and military personnel surround the town.

On Friday, France’s interior minister Cazeneuve, confirmed the major police operation was underway near the airport in Dammartin-en-Goële. Helicopters were circling the town as a cold drizzle fell.

“We have signs of the presence of the terrorists, whom we want to stop,” Cazeneuve told reporters in Paris.

“An operation is underway right now in Dammartin-en-Goële, which is mobilizing all services in the area,” Cazeneuve said. After a series of meetings early Friday, President François Hollande called the attack on the newspaper “the worst of the past 50 years.” He said the nation remained “shocked, considering that the perpetrators of these acts have not yet been arrested, and I am speaking before you as operations are ongoing.”

In Dammartin-en-Goele, residents and witnesses said the industrial town felt like it was under siege. 

The nearby Charles de Gaulle School had been locked down, student Marion Genay told NBC News via Twitter.

“Dammartin is surrounded by the [armed police],” she said. “There is a very tense atmosphere, being locked in the high school.”

Stand-off in eastern Paris: Kosher supermarket

Four people, including the alleged gunman, were killed Friday after the shooter seized a kosher supermarket in Paris and held people captive inside, Hollande said. At least five hostages were freed after dozens of heavily armed French police officers stormed the store, Hyper Cacher. 

The alleged gunman, Coulibaly, was killed in the raid. Le Monde reported Boumedienne, 26, who remains at large, has been identified as a companion of Coulibaly, and is also a suspect in the Thursday killing. 

It was unclear how many shoppers were held inside Hyper Cacher, though the supermarket siege took place during a busy period when Jewish shoppers were preparing for the Sabbath. Coulibaly is believed to have carried an AK-47 with him.

Officers were dressed in full riot gear with rifles, sidearms, and shields outside of the supermarket. Rows of police vehicles were parked behind the store, and ambulances were on scene. Authorities ordered all shops to be closed in the area around the supermarket.

From Tel Aviv, Israel, Kelly Peretz told msnbc’s Jose Diaz-Balart that her niece and her niece’s 6-month-old baby were among the hostages inside the supermarket. “We’re waiting to hear something or see something,” she said.