PARIS — French police were on the hunt Thursday for two brothers suspected of having shot dead 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, with sightings of the duo reported in the north of the country.

At the same time, police were investigating a second, apparently unrelated shooting that left a policewoman dead in Paris earlier on Thursday. Anti-terrorism prosecutors then took over that case, saying the law enforcement was deliberately targeted.

The renewed violence did not stop thousands of people from again taking to French streets to honour the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, with a minute of silence held at noon.

Two masked gunmen with automatic rifles had stormed the offices of the magazine in central Paris at midday on Wednesday. The attackers cried “Allah is great” and “We have avenged the prophet,” witnesses said. Charlie Hebdo was known for ridiculing the prophet Mohammed.

French police are looking for Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, Paris-born brothers said to have links with an organization that has recruited jihadist fighters.

Investigators released photos overnight of the pair, warning that they were likely “armed and dangerous.” The identity card of one brother was found by police in their abandoned car, several media outlets reported.

The owner of a gas station some 80 kilometres northeast of Paris reported seeing the brothers on Thursday morning, reportedly with Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket launcher in their vehicle. Some media outlets said the brothers may have robbed the gas station.

A second sighting of the pair was reported in the same region — the department of Aisne — in the afternoon. Police also remained on high alert in Paris.

The AFP news agency, citing law enforcement sources, wrote that two jihadist flags and 10 Molotov cocktails had been found in one of the escape vehicles used by the suspects.

Cherif Kouachi was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for helping send recruits to fight for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told the Europe 1 broadcaster that the suspects had been under “surveillance,” but that there had been no indications of an imminent attack.

A third person of interest in the shooting turned himself in late Wednesday to police in the town of Charleville-Mezieres, some 70 kilometres north-east of Reims — one of the areas where police carried out their search.

He was identified by media as 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd — the brother-in-law of one of the other suspects, according to AFP. But classmates told media that Hamyd had been with them in school at the time of the shooting.

Eight journalists, including the editor of Charlie Hebdo and several well-known cartoonists, and two policemen were among the dead in Wednesday’s shooting.

A new edition will nevertheless be published next week, with 1 million copies planned, a lawyer for the magazine said. Copies of this week’s edition have sold out and were being offered for hundreds of euros online, the news agency wrote.

Charlie Hebdo is known for its unwavering stance on freedom of expression. It was firebombed after publishing material satirizing the prophet Mohammed in 2011.

The victims at the magazine died for “freedom,” French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday, describing them as “our heroes.”

In Rome, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the attack, while members of the Muslim community in France expressed concern about possible retribution.

Belgian-Israeli comic artist Michel Kichka described the attack in Paris as “the September 11 of freedom of expression.”

“It is an attempt to silence people, who only want to express their opinions. This is a defining moment for France. The French understand now that this is a new dimension: Radical Islam against the Western world,” he told

 

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