Charlie Hebdo hunt: Double hostage crisis in France

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French security services, pressed to their limits, confronted two dangerous hostage situations on Friday, one outside Paris involving the two suspects in Wednesday’s rampage at a satirical newspaper, and another that suddenly erupted Friday afternoon at a kosher supermarket on the eastern edge of Paris, nytimes.com informs.

The suspect in the supermarket siege killed two people and took at least five hostages, according to the police. The authorities identified him as Amedy Coulibaly, who they said had murdered a policewoman in Montrouge, in southern Paris, on Thursday morning. The police said Mr. Coulibaly was a friend and associate of the brothers they say carried out the shootings on Wednesday that left 12 dead, including two police officers.

The twin episodes threw the capital and its beleaguered government into a new crisis. President Francois Hollande interrupted a meeting with local officials to monitor the hostage-taking involving the two suspects in the newspaper killings. When word of the second attack came, he dispatched his interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, to the scene of the supermarket shooting and hostage-taking, near the Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris.

In a measure of the jitters pervading the city, the police ordered shopkeepers on the rue des Rosiers, a street with many Jewish-owned businesses, to close as a precaution.

Early Friday, hundreds of French security forces converged on an industrial park in a town northeast of Paris where the suspects in Wednesday’s terrorist attack at the newspaper Charlie Hebdo were barricaded with at least one hostage at a printing business, the authorities said. A police official said the suspects told negotiators they intended to “die as martyrs.”

As that drama was playing out about 30 miles northeast of Paris, the police responded in force to the shooting and possible hostage-taking at the kosher market.

Police and news reports said the supermarket suspect was believed to have joined the same jihadist group as Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, the main suspects in the shootings at Charlie Hebdo.

The police said a terrorism investigation had been opened, and they issued a photograph of Mr. Coulibaly, and appealed for witnesses to come forward. They also published a photograph of a woman, Hayat Boumeddiene, who they said was also implicated in the Montrouge attack. They said both suspects were armed and dangerous.

At the same time, in the town of Dammartin-en-Goële, about 10 miles from Charles de Gaulle Airport, the authorities were trying to negotiate with the Kouachi brothers, barricaded in a printing plant in an industrial zone.

Mohamed Douhane, a senior police officer following the negotiations, said that the police were in contact with the two suspects and that they hoped to resolve the standoff peacefully.

“We have established communication with the Kouachi brothers,” he said, referring to “They said they wanted to die as martyrs. They are behaving like two determined terrorists who are certainly physically exhausted, but who want to escape with one last big show of force and heroic resistance. They feel trapped and know that their last hours have come.” He added that at least one hostage had been taken.

The police said that the brothers had been located at the printing warehouse by helicopters equipped with heat sensors. Shortly after they were detected, residents saw security forces drop down on ropes from helicopters hovering over the area.

The French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, confirmed that a major police operation was underway near Dammartin-en-Goële. Helicopters were circling the town as a cold drizzle fell.

President François Hollande, after meeting with local officials at the Interior Ministry, said that “France is going through a trying time,” calling this week’s attack “the worst of the past 50 years.”

 

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