One man sought in the deadly shooting at a French satirical paper has turned himself in, and police hunted today for two heavily armed men with possible links to al-Qaida in the military-style, methodical killing of 12 people.
President Francois Hollande, visiting the scene of France's deadliest such attack in more than half a century, called the assault on the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo "an act of exceptional barbarism."
This handout photos released by French Police in Paris early on January 8, 2015 of suspects Cherif Kouachi (L), aged 32, and his brother Said Kouachi (R), aged 34, wanted in connection with an attack at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in the French capital that killed at least 12 people. Photo: AFP
France raised its terror alert system to the maximum Attack Alert and bolstered security with more than 800 extra soldiers to guard media offices, places of worship, transport and other sensitive areas.
Fears had been running high in France and elsewhere in Europe that jihadis trained in warfare abroad would stage attacks at home.
French brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, in their early 30s, should be considered armed and dangerous, according to apolice bulletin released early today.
Mourad Hamyd, 18, surrendered at a police station in Charleville-Mezieres, a small town in France's eastern Champagne region, said Paris prosecutor's spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre. She did not offer details on Hamyd's relationship with the men.
Heavily armed police moved into the nearby city of Reims, searching for the suspects without success, Thibault-Lecuivre said.
Video from BFM-TV showed police dressed in white apparently taking samples inside an apartment. It was not immediately clear who lived there.
One of the police officials said they were linked to a Yemeni terrorist network, and Cedric Le Bechec, a witness who encountered the escaping gunmen, quoted the attackers as saying: "You can tell the media that it's al-Qaida in Yemen."
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss the sensitive and ongoing investigation.
A photo shows a police car riddled with bullets during an attack on the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Photo: AFP
Cherif Kouachi was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for helping funnel fighters to Iraq's insurgency. He said he was outraged at the torture of Iraqi inmates at the US prison at Abu Ghraib near Baghdad.
The masked, black-clad men with assault rifles stormed the offices near Paris' Bastille monument to attack the publication, which had long drawn condemnation and threats. It was firebombed in 2011 for its depictions of Islam, although it also satirised other religions and political figures.
Shouting "Allahu akbar!" as they fired, the men used fluent, unaccented French as they called out the names of specific employees.
Artist Corinne Rey told the French newspaper L'Humanite that she punched in the security code to the Charlie Hebdo offices after she and her young daughter were "brutally threatened" by the gunmen.
Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed, said prosecutor Francois Molins. He said 11 people were wounded, four of them
After fleeing, the attackers collided with another vehicle, then carjacked another car before disappearing in broad daylight, Molins said.
Among the dead: the paper's editor, Stephane Charbonnier.
The staff was in an editorial meeting and the gunmen headed straight for Charbonnier, widely known by his pen name Charb, killing him and his police bodyguard first, said Christophe Crepin, a police union spokesman.
Rey said the assault "lasted five minutes. I hid under a desk."
Two gunmen strolled out to a black car waiting below, one of them calmly shooting a wounded police officer in the headas he writhed on the ground, according to video and a man who watched in fear from his home across the street.
The witness, who refused to allow his name to be used because he feared for his safety, said the attackers were so methodical he first thought they were members of France's elite anti-terrorism forces. Then they fired on the officer.
"They knew exactly what they had to do and exactly whereto shoot. While one kept watch and checked that the traffic was good for them, the other one delivered the final coup de grace," he said.
The other dead were identified as cartoonists Georges Wolinski and Berbard Verlhac, better known as Tignous, andJean Cabut, known as "Cabu." Also killed was Bernard Maris, an economist who was a contributor to the newspaper and was heard regularly on French radio.