Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror

  • 14 January 2015
  • From the section Europe
Composite image of events in France Image copyright Various

France is emerging from one of its worst security crises in decades after three days of attacks by gunmen brought bloodshed to the capital Paris and its surrounding areas. It began with a massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday 7 January and ended with a huge police operation and two sieges two days later.

Here is what we know about how events unfolded:

Sequence of events: 7-9 January

1. Gunmen attack Charlie Hebdo offices

Image copyright Google

At 11:30 local time (10:30 GMT) on Wednesday 7 January, a black Citroen C3 drove up to the Charlie Hebdo building in Rue Nicolas-Appert. Two masked gunmen, dressed in black and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles got out and approached the offices.

They burst into number 6, Rue Nicolas-Appert, before realising they had the wrong address. They then moved down the street to number 10 - where the Charlie Hebdo offices are on the second floor.

Once inside, the men - now known to be brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi - asked maintenance staff in reception where the magazine's offices were, before shooting dead caretaker Frederic Boisseau.

One of the magazine's cartoonists, Corinne Rey, described how she had just returned to the building after picking up her daughter from day care when the gunmen threatened her, forcing her to enter the code for the keypad entry to the newsroom on the second floor - where a weekly editorial meeting was taking place.

The men opened fire and killed the editor's police bodyguard, Franck Brinsolaro, before asking for editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, and other four cartoonists by name and killing them, along with three other editorial staff and a guest attending the meeting.

Witnesses said they had heard the gunmen shouting "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad" and "God is Great" in Arabic while calling out the names of the journalists.

Police, alerted to a shooting incident, arrived at the scene as the gunmen were leaving the building.

Image copyright Getty Images

A police car blocked the gunmen's escape route down the narrow street Allee Vert and the gunmen opened fire.

Journalists and workers who had taken refuge on nearby rooftops filmed the gunmen getting out of the car and shooting at the police vehicle, before driving off.

Media captionFootage taken from a rooftop in Paris shows two gunmen firing shots

The police car's windscreen was riddled with bullets but the officers escaped unhurt.

The black Citroen is thought to have driven south down the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, before doubling back on the northern carriageway. The car stopped and video footage shows the gunmen getting out of the vehicle and shooting police officer Ahmed Merabet who is on a nearby pavement.

One of the attackers then walked up to the injured officer on the pavement and shot him dead at close range. The gunman returned to the car and drove away with his accomplice.

The getaway car was found abandoned - after apparently crashing into another vehicle about 3km (1.8 miles) north of the Charlie Hebdo offices. Investigators found Molotov cocktails and two jihadist flags in the car, French media report.

Image copyright AFP

The attackers then hijacked another car, a grey Renault Clio, and disappeared.

Paris was put on maximum alert and a major security operation was launched with an additional 500 police deployed to the streets of the capital.

2. Policewoman killed

Image copyright AFP

At about 08:45 local time the following day (Thursday 8 January), as police continued their search for the Charlie Hebdo attack suspects, a lone gunman shot two people in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge.

The gunman, armed with a machine-gun and a pistol, shot dead a policewoman and injured a man before fleeing. The French authorities initially dismissed any suggestion of a link between the shooting and the Charlie Hebdo killings, but later confirmed the two were connected.

3. Manhunt: Suspects rob petrol station

Image copyright AFP

A major breakthrough in the hunt for the Charlie Hebdo suspects came at about at 10:30 local time the day after the attacks, when the fugitives robbed a service station near Villers-Cotterets, in the Aisne region, north-east of Paris.

The men - said by the station manager to have been armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers - fired shots as they stole food and petrol from the roadside stop. They drove off towards Paris in the same Renault Clio car hijacked after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices.

The brothers then apparently led police on a chase around north-eastern France, with the anti-terror operation moving to nearby Crepy-en-Valois and the villages of Corcy and Longpont.

In a bulletin informing the public that arrest warrants had been issued for Cherif and Said Kouachi, aged 32 and 34, police said they should be considered armed and dangerous.

French media say Cherif was a convicted Islamist who was jailed in 2008 and had long been known to police for militant activities.

On Friday morning, after commandeering another vehicle in the town of Montagny Sainte Felicite, Said Kouachi was hit in the neck in a shootout with police. A high speed chase ensued as the police pursued the pair along the N2 road towards Paris ending as the brothers sought refuge in a printworks in Dammartin-en-Goele.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Brothers Cherif (L) and Said Kouachi

4. Printworks siege

Image copyright AP

On the morning of Friday 9 January, the manhunt entered its final phase as police closed in on the Charlie Hebdo attack suspects at Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km (22 miles) from Paris.

The fugitives were holed up in a printing firm called Creation Tendance Decouverte on an industrial estate on the outskirts of the town.

Hundreds of armed officers surrounded the building, where Said and Cherif Kouachi - the former bleeding from a bullet wound to the neck - had fled following a car chase.

Elite forces deployed snipers, helicopters and military equipment - sealing off any means of escape for the suspected killers and beginning a tense, eight-hour stand-off.

Just before 17:00 local time, the impasse ended as smoke was seen rising from the printworks amid explosions and gunfire. The two brothers - who had told local media they would die "martyrs'" deaths - emerged from the building, firing at police. Both suspects were killed and two police officers were injured.

Media captionFootage shows special forces approaching the printing firm

It later emerged that the brothers had released a hostage and that another man had survived the incident by hiding in the building's cafeteria, unknown to the attackers, apparently communicating intelligence to police by text message.

5. Supermarket hostage-taking and siege

Meanwhile, in Paris, another siege was under way.

While the Kouachi brothers were surrounded at the printworks, the French authorities had confirmed there was a "connection" between the Charlie Hebdo killings and the shooting of the policewoman in Montrouge.

Then a gunman took several people hostage at a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in the east of Paris after a shootout. Police quickly surrounded the building.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image copyright AP

In an appeal for witnesses to the shooting in Montrouge, police said they were looking for two people: a man called Amedy Coulibaly and a woman called Hayat Boumeddiene (pictured below).

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Amedy Coulibaly (left) and Hayat Boumeddiene

Coulibaly, 32, was then identified as the hostage-taker in the supermarket, who was threatening to kill people unless the Kouachi brothers were allowed to go free.

Minutes after the printworks siege came to an end in Dammartin-en-Goele - at about 17:15 local time - explosions were heard at the Paris supermarket as special forces moved against Coulibaly.

Reports said Coulibaly had just knelt for evening prayers when elite commandos stormed the supermarket, shooting the gunman dead and freeing 15 hostages from the store. They found the bodies of four hostages.

Coulibaly has since also been linked by Paris prosecutors to the shooting and wounding of a 32-year-old jogger in a park in Fontenay-les-Roses, in south-west Paris, on Wednesday - the day of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

His partner, Hayat Boumeddiene, is still wanted by police - although she is thought to have fled France last week. She is believed to have travelled to Syria from Turkey, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. Ms Boumeddiene and the companion of one of the Kouachi brothers had exchanged about 500 phone calls, according to the French authorities.

The victims

Charlie Hebdo

In total 12 people were killed in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices: eight journalists, two police officers, a caretaker and a visitor.

  • Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonist Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier, 47, who had been living under police protection since receiving death threats
  • Cartoonists Jean "Cabu" Cabut, 76, Bernard "Tignous" Verlhac, 57, Georges Wolinski, 80, and Philippe Honore, 73
  • Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist, the only woman killed
  • Economist and regular magazine columnist Bernard Maris, 68, known to readers as Uncle Bernard
  • Michel Renaud, who was visiting from the city of Clermont-Ferrand
  • Mustapha Ourrad, proof-reader
  • Police officer Ahmed Merabet, 42, who was shot dead in a nearby street after the attack
  • Frederic Boisseau, 42, caretaker, who was in the reception area at the time of the attack (his photo has not been released)
  • Franck Brinsolaro, 49, a police officer who acted as Charb's bodyguard (his photo has not been released)

Montrouge shooting

Image copyright Screen grab

Clarissa Jean-Philippe, 27, was the policewoman killed in the suburb of Montrouge

Hyper Cacher supermarket

Image copyright Various
  • Yohan Cohen, 20, worked at the kosher supermarket
  • Philippe Braham, 45, was a business manager for an IT firm
  • Yoav Hattab, 21, was a student and the youngest supermarket victim
  • Francois-Michel Saada, 64, was a former pension fund manager

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