Police Suspects in Paris Attack, Liberation Says

Updated on
Hunt for the Suspects
Police are seen during an operation in the "Croix-Rouge" suburb of Reims, northern France early Jan. 8, 2015 following the attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead in Paris. Photographer: Francois Nascimbeni/AFP/Getty Images

The youngest suspect in the deadly attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has surrendered, Agence-France Presse said, as the police named two other assailants being sought.

French police released pictures of the two brothers, identifying them as Said and Cherif Kouachi, aged 34 and 32 respectively. The younger accomplice was Hamyd Mourad, 18, Le Point magazine said.

Earlier, AFP reported that anti-terror forces raided a site in the northeastern city of Reims -- about 90 miles from Paris. The police did not comment when contacted by Bloomberg.

At least 12 people were killed at the weekly Charlie Hebdo office in eastern Paris, prompting France to deploy thousands of police to protect train stations, airports, schools and cultural sites. The tragedy spurred outrage from leaders around the world, including the heads of Muslim nations and organizations, and brought tens of thousands of people out to rally in support across Europe and the U.S.

“All the elements of this investigation would be made public as soon we have precise and final elements,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said yesterday.

The country was put on the highest terrorist alert after one of its deadliest attacks since World War II, with protection extended to places of worship and media outlets. The assault was carried out by two masked men brandishing AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles, with at least one shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic. It left 11 people injured, four of them in critical condition.

Shocked State

Police have identified all three suspects, France’s Ambassador to Australia, Christophe Lecourtier, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“They have been tracked,” he said. “We know more or less where they might be. And I really hope that in the coming hours the French police will be able to arrest them and bring them to justice.”

“France is in a state of shock after this terrorist attack,” said President Francois Hollande. “An act of exceptional barbarity has been perpetrated against a newspaper, against liberty of expression, against journalists.”

The attacks threaten to stoke Islamophobia in a country that has the biggest Muslim population in Europe and may bolster support for the anti-immigration National Front party. Thousands of people descended into town squares across France last night to defend what they said were values dear to them.

‘Don’t Cede’

“I came here to show we don’t cede to terror,” said Elie Benchimol, 23, an economics student who was at the Place de la Republique in Paris. “France must continue to define itself as a country of freedom of expression and rule of law.”

The dead included eight journalists, a guest at the weekly, a maintenance man and two policemen. The magazine’s most renowned cartoonists -- Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski -- were among those killed.

The journalists had gathered on the second floor of the magazine’s offices in the 11th arrondissement of Paris for their weekly editorial meeting.

The three assailants, including a driver, arrived at Charlie Hebdo in a Citroen C3 at 11:30 a.m. After the shootings that lasted about five minutes they made their escape in the car, which was filmed by some journalists from the roof of the building, and headed toward Porte de Pantin on the northern edge of Paris, where police lost track of them, according to Emmanuel Quemener from the police union Alliance.

1995 Attacks

“It was well-armed commandos,” he said. “They had weapons of war, including Kalashnikovs. We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Hollande said several possible incidents had been foiled in recent weeks.

France’s last major terrorist violence came in 1995, when bombings struck public places between July and October, including the Saint Michel metro station in the heart of Paris. Bombs also exploded in the Place de l’Etoile.

In all, eight were killed and about 200 were injured. The bombings were blamed on an Algerian rebel group.

In 2012, Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, murdered seven people, including three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

“We can’t accept this madness,” Dalil Boubakeur, the Paris Mosque’s rector, said yesterday. “We want to live in peace.”

Global Outrage

The attacks drew condemnation across the world. U.S. President Barack Obama offered French authorities assistance to investigate the shooting. Prime Minister David Cameron called the attacks “barbaric,” saying the U.K. "stands united with the French people in its opposition to all forms of terrorism.’’

Famous for its biting commentary, irreverent, often offensive cartoons, the magazine earlier yesterday tweeted a cartoon of an Islamic State emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Its offices were firebombed in November 2011 after it published a special edition featuring the Prophet Muhammad as a “guest editor.” The fire caused no injuries.

Charlie Hebdo’s cover this week is on “Submission,” a book by Michel Houellebecq released yesterday, which is sparking controversy with its depiction of a fictional France of the future led by an Islamic party and a Muslim president who bans women from the workplace. Submission is the English translation of the word Islam.

‘Muslim Fraternity’

Houellebecq’s book is set in France in 2022. It has the fictional Muslim Fraternity’s chief, Mohammed Ben Abbes, beating National Front Leader Marine Le Pen, with Socialists, centrists, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party rallying behind him to block the National Front.

Ben Abbes goes on to ban women in the workplace, advocates polygamy, pushes Islamic schools on the masses and imposes a conservative and religious vision of society. The French widely accept the new environment, hence the book’s title.

France has more than 5 million people of Muslim faith out of a population of about 65 million, a number that’s growing with children and grandchildren of 20th-century immigrants. Very few Muslims have reached top-level jobs in France, and second-and third-generation French people of Arab descent say they often face discrimination.

The fear of Islamization has traction, with opinion polls showing Le Pen would lead in the first round of the 2017 presidential race. The party topped the Socialist party and UMP in last year’s European elections. It may score well again in this year’s local ballots.

The attack comes against the backdrop of French military actions in Africa and the Middle East to combat Islamic groups.