Europe

Charlie Hebdo attack: France police hunt accomplices

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Media captionPolice footage shows special forces approaching the building in which the Kouachis were holed up

Police in France are on high alert as they hunt for any accomplices of the gunmen who killed 17 people in two days of terror attacks.

Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of Paris kosher supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly, remains on the run.

She was said to be with Coulibaly when a policewoman was killed and is described as "armed and dangerous".

Two gunmen who carried out Wednesday's deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine were killed by police

President Francois Hollande praised the police but also warned of further threats.

He thanked the security services for their "bravery and efficiency", saying the week's violence was "a tragedy for the nation".

Mr Hollande said the danger was not over yet. "We have to be vigilant. I also ask you to be united - it's our best weapon," he said in a televised address on Friday night.

After a security cabinet meeting on Saturday Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France would remain on its highest state of alert "for the next few weeks".

Tight security would be in place for a unity march in Paris on Sunday, which will be attended by British and German as well as French leaders, added Mr Cazeneuve.

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Media captionPresident Hollande called on the French people to remain vigilant

Crossbow

Authorities are urgently focusing on Boumeddiene, who is suspected of being with Coulibaly, 32, when the policewoman was killed in Paris on Thursday, said France's chief prosecutor, Francois Molins.

Both vanished after the shooting, but Coulibaly reappeared on Friday when he took several people hostage at the Hyper Cacher supermarket near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris.

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Media captionLocal residents from Porte de Vincennes in Paris tell the BBC about life in a "working melting pot" at the end of a deadly siege

Four shoppers were killed in the attack, which took place hours before the Sabbath.

French newspaper Le Monde published a series of photographs said to show Coulibaly with Boumeddiene in 2010. In one, the 26-year-old woman is pictured pointing a crossbow at the camera while wearing a full-face veil, which is banned in France.

Mr Molins said the investigation would focus accomplices, financing, and any instruction and help they may received.

He said 16 people had been detained for questioning, including the wife of one of the two brothers who had attacked the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine on Wednesday.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police are still searching for Hayat Boumeddiene, left, who is said to be gunman Amedy Coulibaly's partner

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The first siege on Friday - in Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km (22 miles) north of Paris - ended when Cherif and Said Kouachi were shot dead as they came out of a warehouse building firing at police. Two officers were injured.

One hostage had earlier been released and a second employee, who was hiding in the building's cafeteria, was freed by police after the shooting ended.

Police shortly afterwards launched an assault on the supermarket in Paris, killing Coulibaly and rescuing 15 hostages. They found the bodies of four hostages believed to have been killed before the assault.

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Image caption Police in France remain on high alert amid the threat of further violent attacks by extremists
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The moment when police stormed a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris to end a hostage siege on Friday

Prosecutors said the two brothers in Dammartin had a rocket launcher primed and ready to fire, while the supermarket in Paris had been booby-trapped with explosives.

Officials have said they were aware of Coulibaly and the two brothers. Said Kouachi was known to have travelled to Yemen in 2011, and both brothers are understood to have been on UK and US watch-lists

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Media captionCherif Kouachi had met terrorists in Yemen, according to French authorities

While holed up in the warehouse north of Paris, Cherif Kouachi phoned a French TV news network and told them he was acting on behalf of the Yemen branch of al-Qaeda (AQAP), having been financed by its leader Anwar al-Awlaki before he was killed by a US drone stroke in Yemen in 2011.

The extremist group released an audio message late on Friday praising the attacks but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

Earlier on Friday, a man claiming to be Coulibaly told French TV station BFMTV that he was a member of the Islamic State militant group, and that he had "co-ordinated" his attack with the Kouachi brothers.

Mr Molins confirmed that Coulibaly knew one of the brothers and their respective partners had spoken on the phone more than 500 times.

During Friday's siege, Coulibaly had threatened to kill his captives if police attempted to capture the brothers, he added.

No details have been released of those people killed in the Hyper Cacher, but testimonies of those caught up in the sieges have helped paint a picture of how events unfolded.

The violence started on Wednesday when the Kouachi brothers killed 12 people and injured 11 in an attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.


How Friday unfolded (all times GMT)

07:00 - The Kouachi brothers hijack a car in Montagny-Sainte-Felicite, north of Paris. They are said to be carrying weapons including a rocket launcher.

08:30 - Pursued along the N2 road towards Paris, they exchange fire with police and take refuge in a printing works in Dammartin-en-Goele. They take the manager hostage.

10:30 - The manager is released, but another employee remains in the building.

12:15 - Amedy Coulibaly takes several hostages at Hyper Cacher in eastern Paris.

16:00 - The brothers emerge in Dammartin, opening fire on police. Both are killed. The trapped employee is released and tells police he had been hiding on the second floor, unknown to the gunmen.

16:15 - Security forces move into the supermarket in Paris and kill Coulibaly. It emerges that four hostages at the supermarket have been killed, but 15 others are freed.

France attacks: What we know