10 Jan 2015

French police hunt accomplices

7:38 pm on 10 January 2015

Police in France are hunting for any accomplices of the gunmen who killed 17 people in two days of terror attacks.

Police are still searching for Hayat Boumeddiene, left, who is said to be gunman Amedy Coulibaly's partner.

Police are still searching for Hayat Boumeddiene, left, who is said to be gunman Amedy Coulibaly's partner. Photo: AFP

One key figure is Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, who was killed when police stormed a supermarket in Paris on Friday.

She was said to be with Coulibaly when a policewoman was killed and is described as "armed and dangerous", reports the BBC.

Two gunmen who carried out Wednesday's deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine were killed by police on Friday.

Francois Molins, the chief prosecutor in France, said authorities were urgently focusing on Boumeddiene, who is suspected of being with Coulibaly, 32, when the policewoman was killed in Paris on Thursday.

Both vanished after the shooting, but Coulibaly reappeared on Friday when he took several people hostage at the Hypercasher supermarket near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris.

A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video shows French police special forces launching the assault at the kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris.

Special forces launch the assault at the kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris. Photo: AFP

French newspaper Le Monde published a series of photographs said to show Coulibaly with Boumeddiene in 2010. In one, the 26-year-old woman is pictured pointing a crossbow at the camera while wearing a full-face veil, which is banned in France.

Mr Molins said the investigation would "focus on determining who their accomplices were, how these criminal actions were financed, and all the instruction and help they may have benefited from whether in France, from overseas".

He said 16 people had been detained for questioning so far, including the wife of one of the Kouachi brothers and other members of their family.

French government ministers are meeting on Saturday morning to plan their next steps.

France rocked by double siege

Two brothers suspected of killing 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris have been shot dead after a dramatic siege north of Paris.

A gunman and four hostages were also killed at a separate siege at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

Cherif and Said Kouachi - the two main suspects in the attack on Charlie Hebdo - were holed up in a printer's building in Dammartin-en-Goele, 35 kilometres north of Paris, where they had taken one person hostage.

Handout photos released by French police show suspects Cherif Kouachi (L), aged 32, and his brother Said Kouachi (R), aged 34.

Cherif Kouachi (L), 32, and Said Kouachi (R), 34 Photo: FRENCH POLICE / AFP

They had earlier stolen a car and exchanged fire with police during a chase down a major motorway.

Several explosions and gunshots were heard coming from the printer's building just after 5am (NZDT).

A short time later, French police announced the pair had been killed after an exchange of fire with security forces. The hostage was freed while a police officer was injured, the BBC reported.

The print works at Dammartin-en-Goele, set in marsh and woodland, had been under siege since the gunmen took refuge there early on Friday.

Four hostages killed in Paris

Five people were killed in a separate hostage drama which unfolded in eastern Paris overnight.

A gunman, believed to be linked to the two Charlie Hebdo suspects, had taken a number of people hostage at a Jewish supermarket.

After a massive police and security operation, the man - who has been named as Amedy Coulibaly, 32 - was killed in an early morning shoot-out.

Police believe he is the same man who shot dead a police officer in Paris on Thursday.

Fifteen captives were freed, according to reports, but four hostages were killed.

It is not clear whether they were killed before or after the police assault on Hypercasher supermarket, near Porte de Vincennes, began.

A further four hostages were seriously injured after the raid, as ambulances raced to the scene, joining a jam of police vans, other emergency vehicles and helicopters buzzing overhead.

Police had been hunting Coulibaly along with a 26-year-old woman after the killing of the police officer. The woman, Hayat Boumeddiene, remains on the run.

Reports came in this morning of a new hostage situation in the city of Montpellier in southern France - however, authorities said it was not related to the two earlier sieges.

Two people were understood to be held at a jewellery shop in the city's central business district.

Call for national unity in France

In a speech this morning, French President Francois Hollande called for national unity and said France should remain "implacable" in the face of racism and anti-Semitism.

Speaking shortly after the two sieges came to an end, Mr Hollande hailed the "courage" of French security forces but said France had "not finished with the threats targeting it".

French President Francois Hollande addresses the nation during a televised speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

French President Francois Hollande addresses the nation during a televised speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Photo: AFP

Mr Hollande also said "these fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion" - a message aimed at preventing a backlash against France's Muslim community, which is Europe's largest.

He called the hostage-taking in Paris "an appalling anti-Semitic act".

He also expressed support for the families of the victims.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said there had been a "clear failing" in French intelligence.

"If 17 people die, this means mistakes have been made," he said, including those killed in attacks on Wednesday and Thursday in the toll.

Questions raised about attacks

Charlie Hebdo had long courted controversy with satirical attacks on Islam as well as other religions and political leaders. A witness said one of the gunmen in Thursday's attack was heard to shout: "We have killed Charlie Hebdo! We have avenged the Prophet!"

The gunmen killed 12 people in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo weekly, which raised questions about surveillance of radicals, far-right politics, religion and censorship in a land struggling to integrate part of its five million-strong Muslim population.

Security sources said the French-born brothers of Algerian origin had been under surveillance and had been placed on European and US "no-fly" lists.

- Reuters / AAP / AFP / BBC

Members of the French police special force GIPN carry out searches in northern France.

Members of the French police special force GIPN carry out searches in northern France. Photo: AFP

Helicopters fly over buildings in Dammartin-en-Goele, north-east of Paris, after the standoff between the two suspects and special forces.

Helicopters fly over buildings in Dammartin-en-Goele after the standoff between the two suspects and special forces. Photo: AFP

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