Charlie Hebdo attack: The hunt for the killers

Posted at 8:00 AM, Jan 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-08 09:00:26-05

PARIS — As a nationwide hunt continues for two men who attacked the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the nation got rattled once again Thursday — with another deadly shooting, this time of a police officer, in the southern suburbs of Paris.

That’s where, in the Montrouge suburb, a gunman dressed in black — like the Charlie Hebdo attackers — and apparently wearing a bulletproof vest, got out of a car as police officers were dealing with a traffic accident.

He opened fire, shooting and killing a female officer.

Then, like those behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre, he got away.

About 20 heavily armed police then surrounded a nearby apartment building, pushing back crowds and closing off the street. But, around noontime, sirens blared as police began heading away from the area — though it wasn’t clear what that meant, or if this suspect was thought to be still in the vicinity.

It’s not clear if this incident is related to Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo attack. But it does come with the nation at edge, especially given that the prime suspects in that bloodbath — which left 12 dead and 11 wounded — remain on the loose.

Several have been arrested in connection with that shooting, including one who turned himself in. But not Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34.

“They are still free, they are heavily armed, so we can be afraid of further violence,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French broadcaster RTL.

Latest updates at 7:21 a.m. ET

• According to French media, including Le Figaro newspaper, a gas station manager near Viller-Cotteret in Aisne spotted two armed men he believes were the Kouachi brothers. CNN cannot independently confirm the report.

• Parisian officials will honor the magazine Charlie Hebdo and its surviving staff at a Friday morning ceremony, Paris Deputy Mayor Patrick Klugman told CNN.

• Crowds gathered in the rain in Paris to mark a moment’s silence to honor those killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine. Many held up media passes and broke into applause as the silence ended. The bells of Notre Dame Cathedral tolled across the city.

• Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on “civilized people,” whatever their faith, to unite “against barbarism” after the attack.

• The two police officers killed in the Wednesday attack have been identified as Ahmed Merabet and Franck Brinsolaro.

‘Their only mistake’

The two masked men apparently left behind a getaway car, which police impounded. CNN affiliate BFMTV reported that police found an identification card of one of the Kouachi brothers during their investigations.

“It was their only mistake,” said Dominique Rizet, BFMTV’s police and justice consultant, reporting that the discovery helped the investigation.

The Kouachi brothers returned from war-torn Syria in the summer, USA Today reported without saying where it got the information.

Officials were running their names through databases to look for connections with ISIS and al Qaeda. The suspects were known to security services, Valls said.

A third suspect, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, has turned himself in to police, a source close to the case told the AFP news agency. Mourad did so late Wednesday after seeing his name mentioned on social media, the source said.

Lunchtime attack

The victims may have been killed over cartoons the satirical magazine published lampooning the Muslim prophet, Mohammed.

The magazine is known for its irreverence toward religion, society and politics. Its offices were fire-bombed in 2011, on the same day the magazine was due to release an issue with a cover that appeared to poke fun at Islamic law.

On Wednesday, gunmen ran into the building housing Charlie Hebdo’s offices, not far from the famed Notre Dame Cathedral and the Place de la Bastille.

On their way into the building, they asked exactly where the offices were. The men reportedly spoke fluent French with no accent.

They barged in on the magazine’s staff, while they were gathered for a lunchtime editorial meeting. The gunmen separated the men from the women and called out the names of cartoonists they intended to kill, said Dr. Gerald Kierzek, a physician who treated wounded patients and spoke with survivors.

The shooting was not a random spray of bullets, but more of a precision execution, he said.

It was the deadliest attack in Europe since July 2011, when Anders Behring Brevik killed 77 people in attacks on government buildings in Oslo, Norway, and at a youth camp on the island of Utoya.

Manhunt for Paris Attack Suspects

Avenging the prophet

In Paris on Wednesday, journalist Martin Boudot was working nearby when the attack happened.

Boudot and his colleagues made a mad dash for the roof. They didn’t know what to do.

“We knew that there were victims a few meters away from us, but there might be, you know, some explosives somewhere or maybe a third guy,” Boudot said.

Cell phone cameras caught two gunmen as they ran back out of the building, still firing. One of them ran up to a wounded man lying on a sidewalk, who appeared to wear a dark blue uniform. The gunman shot him point-blank.

The two said they were avenging the Prophet Mohammed and shouted “Allahu akbar,” which translates to “God is great,” Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said.

‘Parisians will not be afraid’

The victims’ names were splashed Thursday across newspapers as heroes for freedom of expression. “Liberty assassinated.” “We are all Charlie Hebdo,” the headlines blared.

They included Stephane Charbonnier — a cartoonist and the magazine’s editor, known as “Charb” — and three other well-known cartoonists known by the pen names Cabu, Wolinski and Tignous.

Flags flew at half-staff on public buildings and events were canceled Thursday, a national day of mourning.

“I can’t remember such a day since 9/11,” said Klugman, Paris’ deputy mayor. “The country really is in a kind of shutdown in respect and memory of the 12 people killed yesterday.”

The day earlier, thousands poured into streets in hordes in a show of solidarity, holding up pens and chanting, “We are Charlie!” Similar demonstrations took place in cities in addition to Paris, including Rome, Berlin and Barcelona.

According to Klugman, “Parisians will not be afraid.”