From the bloodstained conference room of a weekly satirical magazine, to the merciless shooting of a Paris police officer in the middle of the street. From the fatal shooting of a traffic officer at the southern edge of Paris to the armed robbery of a gas station 50 miles north of the city.
Friday began with a dangerous standoff at a printing shop in the industrial town of Dammartin-en-Goele, France, and quickly moved to the deadly hostage takeover of a kosher grocery store in the center of Paris.
The brutal killing Wednesday of 12 people at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo plunged Paris into 54 hours of terror as hundreds of heavily armed paramilitary officials scoured the normally peaceful French countryside searching for two suspects — brothers who hoped to “die as martyrs.”
In a cold-blooded attack on cartoonists at the irreverent publication, the gunmen, donning dark masks and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices at around 11:30 a.m. local time. They allegedly killed one maintenance worker on the ground level of the offices before moving upstairs and opening fire on an editorial meeting, killing eight journalists, an economist and a security officer stationed at the magazine.
The masked gunmen, who shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” during the attack, fled the scene, engaging in gunfire with police on the streets of Paris and killing an officer at point blank range. "Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo," one of the gunmen reportedly shouted after the attack. The gunmen entered a waiting black vehicle and sped off. The suspects eventually crashed their car and then hijacked a Renault Clio at gunpoint, according to NBC News. In the frenzy, one suspect left behind a crucial piece of evidence — a passport that would identify him as Säid Kouachi.
As Paris slid into the late evening hours on Wednesday, an anti-terror raid was reported in Reims, France, a city northeast of Paris, but the suspects — identified by police as Chérif Kouachi, 32, and Säid Kouachi, 34 — remained at large. A third suspect police initially named in the investigation, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, turned himself into police Wednesday night.
Shocked but unbowed, Parisians gathered in a stunning show of force Wednesday night to mourn the slain victims of Charlie Hebdo. The French satirical weekly had been subject to threats and even past attacks for its satirical depiction of Muhammed. In fact, it was an equal opportunity offender, unafraid to go after many sacred religious and political images. In the aftermath of the brutal killings, pencils and notepads became symbols of press freedom, and demonstrators around the world declared "Je suis Charlie," or “I am Charlie.”
New violence came on Thursday, which French President Francois Hollande declared a national day of mourning, as a local traffic policewoman was shot and killed in a southwestern suburb of Paris. A street sweeper was also wounded in the attack. Police later identified suspects in the shooting as 32-year-old Amedy Coulibaly — who had ties to Chérif Kouachi — and Hayat Boumedienne, a 26-year-old reported to be Coulibaly’s wife.
The Kouachi brothers were also spotted Thursday about 50 miles north of Paris at a gas station, which the suspects robbed while wearing masks and armed with machine guns. The confrontation set off a renewed manhunt in the towns of Longport and Crepy-en-Valois. Dozens of heavily armed police officials descended on the area in vans, military vehicles and helicopters as law enforcement engaged in a door-to-door search for the suspects.
The suspects remained on the loose Thursday, but disturbing details about the brothers’ backgrounds continued to surface. Chérif Kouachi was arrested in 2005 when he tried to travel to Iraq via Syria with a janitor-turned-preacher named Farid Benyettou. In 2008, Chérif Kouachi was convicted on terrorism charges for working to recruit jihadists to fight in Iraq. He served a year and a half of a three-year sentence. Säid Kouachi reportedly spent months training with al-Qaida in Yemen before returning to France, according to The New York Times. He had been questioned in the past by French authorities but never charged. The two brothers had apparently long been known to French and American intelligence officials and were on the U.S. “no-fly” list for years.
The marathon manhunt for the Kouachi brothers culminated Friday in a pair of dramatic and deadly standoffs. The brothers emerged from a wooded area around 8 a.m. local time in Dammartin-en-Goële, a sleepy town located near Charles de Gaulle international airport. They approached a car and forced the driver to hand over the vehicle, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters Friday. The brothers encountered a patrol car, and Säid Kouachi was wounded in the the throat during a firefight. The two suspects fled to a nearby printing shop, where they took a manager hostage.
Police attempted to contact the brothers by sending text messages, but they weren’t answered, according to Molins. Law enforcement eventually used stun grenades before bursting into the shop. More gunfire ensued, and two officers were injured before the suspects were ultimately killed. The hostage was freed, and police recovered weapons both inside the shop and the suspects’ stolen car.
Simultaneously, more than a dozen riot police stormed a kosher grocery store in Paris. Amedy Coulibaly, the suspect in Thursday’s police shooting, had seized the market along with a number of hostages during a busy period when shoppers were preparing for the Sabbath. Coulibaly told French TV that he would kill the hostages inside the supermarket if the Koauchi brothers were not able to walk free, according to Molins. Officers eventually raided the supermarket, killing Coulibaly and discovering four dead hostages inside, Molins said. At least five other hostages were seen fleeing the supermarket, accompanied by police.
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Hollande thanked the forces who responded to both hostage situations Friday, saying the authorities showed courage and efficiency. “I wish to tell them we are proud of them, because when they were given the order they all acted as one with a good result. They did it to save human lives. They did it to neutralize the terrorists.”
While the immediate terror gripping Paris for the past few days appears to be resolved, the country remained on edge early Saturday as yet another manhunt continued: Boumedienne, who is considered armed and dangerous, is still at large. Jean-Louis Bruguière, a retired counter-terrorism investigating judge who prosecuted Chérif Kouachi in 2005, warned that as the widow of the martyr, Boumedienne "is very dangerous because she has to follow.”
Jane C. Timm and Joy Y. Wang contributed reporting.