PARIS (TIP): French anti-terrorism police converged on an area northeast of Paris on January 8 after two brothers suspected of behind an attack on a satirical newspaper were spotted at a petrol station in the region.
France’s prime minister said on Thursday he feared the Islamist militants who killed 12 people could strike again as a manhunt for two men widened across the country.
Two police sources said that the men were seen armed and wearing cagoules in a Renault Clio car at a petrol station on a secondary road in Villiers-Cotterets some 70 kilometers from the French capital.
Amid French media reports the men had abandoned their car, Bruno Fortier, the mayor of neighboring Crépy-en-Valois, said helicopters were circling his town and police and anti-terrorism forces were deploying en masse.
“It’s an incessant waltz of police cars and trucks,” he told Reuters, adding that he could not confirm reports the men were holed up in a house in the area.
A policewoman was killed in a shootout in Paris earlier in the day, but police sources could not immediately confirm a link with Wednesday’s killings at the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper that marked the worst attack on French soil for decades.
National leaders and allied states described the assault on Charlie Hebdo, known for its lampooning of Islam and other religions as well as politicians, as an assault on democracy. The bells of Notre-Dame cathedral rang out during a minute’s silence observed across France and beyond.
Many European newspapers either re-published Charlie Hebdo cartoons or mocked the killers with images of their own.
Montrouge Mayor Jean-Loup Metton said the policewoman and a colleague were attending a reported traffic accident when Thursday’s shooting occurred. Witnesses said the assailant fled in a Renault Clio and police sources said he wore a bullet-proof vest and had a handgun and assault rifle.
But one police officer at the scene told Reuters he did not appear to resemble the Charlie Hebdo shooters.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls was asked on RTL radio after an emergency cabinet meeting with President Francois Hollande whether he feared a further attack.
“That question is entirely legitimate, that’s obviously our main concern, and that is why thousands of police and investigators have been mobilized to catch these individuals.”
“ARMED AND DANGEROUS”
Police released photographs of the two French nationals still at large, calling them “armed and dangerous”: brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, aged 32 and 34, both of whom were already under watch by security services.
Late on January 7, an 18-year-old man turned himself into police in Charleville-Mézières near the Belgian border as police carried out searches in Paris and the northeastern cities of Reims and Strasbourg. A legal source said he was the brother-in-law of one of the main suspects and French media quoted friends as saying he was in school at the moment of the attack.
French social media carried numerous reports of police helicopters across northern France. Police tightened security at transport hubs, religious sites, media offices and stores.
There were scattered, unconfirmed reports of sightings of the assailants and police increased their presence at entry points to Paris. One police source talked of a type of “psychosis” setting in with various reports and rumors, but police had to take each of them seriously.