PARIS (AP) -- Terrorists linked to each other seized hostages at two locations around Paris on Friday, facing off against thousands of French security forces as the city shut down a famed Jewish neighborhood and scrambled to protect residents and tourists from further attacks.
By Friday afternoon, explosions and gunshots rang out and smoke rose outside a printing plant where two brothers linked to al-Qaida and suspected in a newspaper massacre were holed up with a hostage north of Paris.
Security forces had surrounded the building for most of the day, cornering the suspects in the killings at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris. Police SWAT forces could be seen on the roof of the building and one police helicopter landed near it.
France has been high alert for more attacks since the country’s worst terror attack in decades—the massacre Wednesday in Paris at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
Minutes earlier, a gunman holding at least five hostages in a Paris kosher market had threatened to kill them if French authorities launched an assault on the two brothers, a police official said. The two sets of hostage-takers know each other, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the rapidly developing situations with the media.
The Paris mayor’s office announced the closure of all shops along Rosiers Street in the city’s famed Marais neighborhood in the heart of the tourist district. Hours before the Jewish Sabbath, the street is usually crowded with shoppers—French Jews and tourists alike. The street is also only a kilometer (a half mile) away from Charlie Hebdo’s offices.
Brothers Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, grabbed a hostage early Friday and were cornered by police inside a printing house in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris.
In addition, the police official said the gunman holding at least five hostages Friday inside a kosher grocery store in eastern Paris is believed responsible for the roadside killing of a Paris policewoman on Thursday. Authorities released a photo of him and a female accomplice.
At the store near the Porte de Vincennes neighborhood, the gunman burst in shooting just a few hours before the Jewish Sabbath began, declaring “You know who I am,” the official recounted.
The police official said several people had been wounded when the gunman opened fire in the kosher market but were able to flee and get medical care. It was not clear whether there were other wounded inside the market.
Police SWAT squads descended on the area and France’s top security official rushed from to the scene. The attack came before sundown when the store would have been crowded with shoppers.
Paris police had released a photo of Amedy Coulibaly and a second suspect, a woman named Hayet Boumddiene, who the official said is the market gunman’s accomplice. Police said 100 students were under lockdown in schools nearby and the highway ringing Paris was closed.
Hours before and 40 kilometers (25 miles) away , a convoy of police trucks, helicopters and ambulances streamed toward Dammartin-en-Goele, a small industrial town near Charles de Gaulle airport, to seize the Charlie Hebdo suspects, who had hijacked a car in a nearby town after more than two days on the run.
“They said they want to die as martyrs,” Yves Albarello, a local lawmaker who said he was inside the command post, told French television station i-Tele.
Cherif Kouachi, 32, was convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for ties to a network sending jihadis to fight U.S. forces in Iraq.
A Yemeni security official said his 34-year-old brother, Said Kouachi, is suspected of having fought for al-Qaida in Yemen. Another senior security official says Kouachi was in Yemen until 2012.
Both officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of an ongoing investigation into Kouachi’s stay in Yemen.
Both brothers were on the U.S. no-fly list, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss foreign intelligence publicly.