Tens of thousands of law enforcement officers have fanned out across the country in search of the two suspects accused of killing 12 people in a brazen daytime attack, France's worse terrorist attack in a generation.
Xavier Castaing, a police spokesman, told reporters that the two suspects had been spotted in the Picardy region northeast of Paris. French anti-terrorism police swarmed at least two towns in the region Thursday afternoon and began house-to-house searches, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, authorities extended France's maximum terror alert from Paris to Picardy.
French police said the two brothers, Said and Chérif Kouachi, are “armed and dangerous.” Having been under police surveillance for previous terrorism-related activities, The New York Times writes, the men had reportedly claimed during the attack that they acted on behalf of Al Qaeda in Yemen.
...On Thursday, two American officials said that the brothers had ties to Al Qaeda’s affiliate in that country. The officials declined to say whether that meant the suspects had been in communication with the group or had actually traveled there and perhaps received training.
Questions were raised about why the police and security services, who had known about the brothers, one of whom had spent time in jail for jihadist activities, had not managed to disrupt the attack plot.
A third suspect in the attack turned himself into police overnight, and officials have detained nine people close to the two brothers for further questioning, the Associated Press reports. An additional 90 people have been questioned so far in the investigation.
While the search continues for the two French-born sons of Algerian parents, The Guardian reports that the information that led police to focus on Picardy is unconfirmed and conflicting.
Some French media suggested the suspects had been picked up by cameras at a péage (road toll) stop. Others said they had been identified by the owner of a petrol station near Villers-Cotterêts and a number of reports went even further, suggesting the two men had robbed the petrol station and made off with fuel and food.
The reports suggested that heavy weapons including, allegedly, a Kalashnikov and a rocket launcher, could be seen in the rear of the vehicle.
In Paris, thousands of mourners gathered Thursday at landmarks across the city to remember the victims of Wednesday’s attack. A moment of silence was held at noon across France, and the lights of the Eiffel Tower were dimmed in honor of the honor of those slain.
The Christian Science Monitor’s Sara Miller Llana reports that the mood throughout Thursday was somber yet defiant.
Indeed, the urgency and shock felt on the streets of Paris in the immediate aftermath of the rampage quickly evolved into a sense of solidarity and defiance in the face of the worst terrorist attack on French soil in modern history.
“We’ve all grown up with their cartoons, so this is a collective death, for all of France, as a symbol of France,” says Leda Pavlovchenko, a Parisian mother who lives close to the Charlie Hebdo offices. “But I think the country is acting courageously. We have no other choice but to be cohesive and act like a tribe."