French Anti-terrorist forces wants to establish a dialogue

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|Reuters

French anti-terrorist forces surrounding a building where they believe two men suspected of attacking the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly are holed up want to start a dialogue and have not launched an assault, a French interior ministry spokesman said.

“The priority is to establish a dialogue,” Pierre-Henry Brandet said in a message tweeted by the interior ministry.

“This can take a long time, hours and sometimes days,” he added.

It’s reported that the two main suspects in yesterday’s massacre are in hiding in a print works in Dammartin-en-Goele. Several hundred people are thought to be working there.

“We have indications of the presence of the terrorists whom we want to stop,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters in Paris after a police source said a hostage-taking was going on.

“An operation is underway right now in Dammartin-en-Goele, which is mobilizing all services in the zone,” Cazeneuve said, adding that further operations would be conducted in “the upcoming hours, upcoming minutes.”

Dammartin-en-Goele is 40 km (25 miles) from the woodland zone where police had been hunting the two suspects on Thursday.

There are reports that local schools are now being evacuated.

Earlier, gunshots rang out in the town and a police source reported that police had been chasing a vehicle on the nearby A2 motorway.

Reuters
Suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi

A day after the Paris attack, officers carried out house-to-house searches in the village of Corcy, a few km (miles) from a service station where police sources said the brothers were sighted in ski masks. Helicopters flew overhead.

The manager of the service station near Villers-Cotterets in the Asine region said the suspects fired shots, and stole food and petrol. French media reports that they were heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled launchers.

Police are now monitoring all of the main entry roads into Paris.

A third suspect turned himself in to police in Charleville-Mézières, an official at the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

The hooded attackers stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly known for lampooning Islam and other religions, in the most deadly militant attack on French soil in decades.

Police issued a document to polices forces across the region saying the men were being sought for murder in relation to the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The document named them as Said Kouachi, born in 1980, Cherif Kouachi, born in 1982, both from Paris, and Hamyd Mourad, born in 1996.

The police source said one of them had been identified by his identity card, which had been left in the getaway car.

BFM TV, citing unidentified sources, said the man had decided to go to the police after seeing his name in social media. It said other arrests had taken place in circles linked to the two brothers.

United States and European sources close to the investigation said on Thursday that one of the brothers, Said Kouachi, was in Yemen in 2011 for a number of months training with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the group’s most active affiliates.

A Yemeni official familiar with the matter said the Yemen government was aware of the possibility of a connection between Said Kouachi and AQAP, and was looking into any possible links.

US government sources said Said Kouachi and his brother Cherif Kouachi were listed in two US security databases, a highly classified database containing information on 1.2 million possible counter-terrorism suspects, called TIDE, and the much smaller “no fly” list maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center, an interagency unit.

US television network ABC reported that the brothers had been listed in the databases for “years”.

Dave Joly, a spokesman for the Terrorist Screening Center, said he could neither confirm nor deny if the Kouachis were listed in counter-terrorism databases.

Cherif Kouachi had previously been tried on terrorism charges and served 18 months in prison.

He was charged with criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise in 2005. He had been part of an Islamist cell that enlisted French nationals from a mosque in eastern Paris to go to Iraq to fight Americans in Iraq. He was arrested before leaving for Iraq to join militants.

Police published pictures of the two brothers Thursday morning calling for witnesses and describing the two men as “armed and dangerous.”

EXECUTIONS

During the attack, one of the assailants was captured on video outside the building shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Greatest) as shots rang out. Another walked over to a police officer lying wounded on the street and shot him point-blank with an assault rifle before the two calmly climbed into a black car and drove off.

A police union official said there were fears of further attacks, and described the scene in the offices as carnage, with a further four wounded fighting for their lives.

Tens of thousands joined impromptu rallies across France in memory of the victims and to support freedom of expression.

The government declared the highest state of alert, tightening security at transport hubs, religious sites, media offices and department stores as the search for the assailants got under way.

Some Parisians expressed fears about the effect of the attack on community relations in France, which has Europe’s biggest Muslim population.

“This is bad for everyone – particularly for Muslims despite the fact that Islam is a fine religion. It risks making a bad situation worse,” Cecile Electon, an arts worker who described herself as an atheist, told Reuters at a vigil on Paris’s Place de la Republique attended by 35,000 people.

Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is well known for courting controversy with satirical attacks on political and religious leaders of all faiths and has published numerous cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad. Jihadists online repeatedly warned that the magazine would pay for its ridicule.

The last tweet on its account mocked Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant Islamic State, which has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria and called for “lone wolf” attacks on French soil.

There was no claim of responsibility. However, a witness quoted by 20 Minutes daily newspaper said one of the assailants cried out before getting into his car: “Tell the media that it is al Qaeda in Yemen!”

Supporters of Islamic State and other jihadist groups hailed the attack on Internet sites. Governments throughout Europe have expressed fear that fighters returning from Iraq or Syria could launch attacks in their home countries.

“Today the French Republic as a whole was the target,” President Francois Hollande said in a prime-time evening television address. He declared a national day of mourning on Thursday.

BARBARIC ACT

An amateur video broadcast by French television stations shows two hooded men in black outside the building. One of them spots a wounded policeman lying on the ground, hurries over to him and shoots him dead at point-blank range with a rifle.

In another clip on television station iTELE, the men are heard shouting in French: “We have killed Charlie Hebdo. We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad.”

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the assailants killed a man at the entrance of the building to force entry. They then headed to the second floor and opened fire on an editorial meeting attended by eight journalists, a policeman tasked with protecting the magazine’s editorial director and a guest.

“What we saw was a massacre. Many of the victims had been executed, most of them with wounds to the head and chest,” Patrick Hertgen, an emergencies services medic called out to treat the injured, told Reuters.

A Reuters reporter saw groups of armed policeman patrolling around department stores in the shopping district and there was an armed gendarme presence outside the Arc de Triomphe.

US President Barack Obama described the attack as cowardly and evil, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among European leaders condemning the shooting.

The dead included co-founder Jean “Cabu” Cabut and editor-in-chief Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier.

Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Council of the Muslim faith (CFCM), condemned an “immensely barbaric act also against democracy and freedom of the press” and said its perpetrators could not claim to be true Muslims.

Source: Christian Today