French police closed in on the suspects in the massacre of journalists at magazine Charlie Hebdo, cornering them in a small town near Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
Almost three days after 12 people were killed at the magazine’s offices in Paris, special forces are confronting the two men, Said Kouachi, 34, and his brother Cherif, 32, in Dammartin-en-Goele, 26 miles northeast of central Paris and 8 miles from the air hub. Heavily armed police blocked approaches to the town and helicopters hovered in the fog overhead. Agence France-Presse said the men have taken a hostage.
“The perpetrators haven’t been arrested yet, but the operations are ongoing,” President Francois Hollande said. “This is the worst attack in France in 50 years. We will do everything to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
The two men are holed up at a commercial printing business on the edge of the town, opposite a logistics site operated by grocer Carrefour SA. (CA) The town council asked residents to stay home in a statement on its website, and said students were confined to their schools. At Charles de Gaulle, France’s main international airport, operator Aeroports de Paris said flights were being re-routed around the area.
France is in the midst of one of the largest security operations in its history after two men with Kalashnikov rifles attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly, on Jan. 7. Yesterday, elite police units surrounded three hamlets about 43 miles north-east of Paris, after having determined that the men had fled to the area.
“An operation is currently under way in Dammartin-en-Goele and special police forces are being deployed,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in televised comments. “All of the ministry’s forces, police forces, are mobilized.”
The two men may be in possession of a rocket launcher and other weapons, according to a police official who declined to be identified in line with government policy.
Cherif Kouachi was known to French police and spent time in prison for participation in a jihadist group. His brother Said may have received training at a militant camp in Yemen.
Noel Beckwith, a resident of Dammartin-en-Geoele, told Bloomberg Television that residents had heard “nothing at all” from police so far.
“We’re sort of barricaded in our house and looking out the windows.”