France: National Day of Mourning As Manhunt Continues
While the bells of Notre Dame rang out, thousands across Paris paused for a minute of silence on Thursday.
In front of the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where Wednesday’s massacre took place, citizens have assembled all morning, leaving flowers as hundreds crowded into the street.
Nearby, a memorial with flowers and candles was also set up on the spot where a police officer was gunned down.
The crowds applauded respectfully as the minute ended, and across the city, a chorus of church bells rang symbolically.
One suspect in the killings turned himself Wednesday night, and at least six others have been arrested as French police continue their manhunt.
Still on the run on Thursday morning were alleged shooters Cherif and Said Kouachi, 34 and 32 respectively. Breaking reports say the pair have been tracked to Villers-Cotterets, in the Aisne department along France’s northeastern border with Belgium. Sources close to the investigation say they are heavily armed
The pair on the run were spotted by a service station operator in Villers-Cotterets, who said they were armed
Police overnight have concentrated their pursuit in this region. Cherif reportedly has been residing for over a year in an apartment project in the Croix-Rouge section of Reims. A vast police raid was conducted there last evening.
Police have released portraits of the two, who have a history of jihadist activity and warned the public they are “armed and dangerous.”
Hamyd Mourad, 18, the youngest of three suspects sought by police, surrendered voluntarily in Charleville-Mezieres Wednesday night, turning himself in around 11 p.m. Mourad, who is Cherif Kouachi’s brother-in-law, has denied involvement, claiming he was in school Wednesday. Witnesses, reports say, support this claim.
A total of seven people are under arrest or detained in three locations, including Paris and Reims, a town 90 miles from Paris Multiple reports say the suspects literally established their own identity for police while abandoning their first getaway vehicle. In changing out of their assault clothing, reports say, Kouachi left behind his national identity card.
Both brothers are known to French intelligence sources and were previously associated with the Filial du Butte-Chaumont, a Paris-based radical cell that recruited jihadists, sending them for training camps in Iraq and Tunisia.
Cherif served a four-year prison sentence for these activities. Survivors of Wednesday’s attack indicate that the shooters identified themselves as being al Queda.
“I’d picked up my daughter from daycare,” Charlie Hebdo, contributor Corrine Rey (known as “Coco”) told the newspaper L’Humanite before arriving at the newspaper’s offices for the weekly editorial meeting.
“Two armed, hooded men armed brutally threatened us. They wanted to get in, to go up inside. I tapped in the code. They shot Wolinski, Cabu … it lasted five minutes … I took refuge under a desk … They spoke perfect French … They claimed they were al Qaeda.”
Among victims who were systematically shot by the pair, a fifth cartoonist Phillipe Honoré , 73, has been identified. Incredibly, just moments before the shooting a drawing by the artist which constituted a Seasons Greeting card from Isis was sent out on the newspaper’s Twitter account.