Police in France have reportedly located the two brothers named as suspects in the killing of 12 people at the Paris headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo yesterday afternoon.
AFP reported that they had been spotted at a petrol station in northern France.
Said and Cherif Kouachi, in their early 30s, are believed to be part of the 19th arrondissement network that is named after the suburb of Paris they lived in however it is not yet confirmed if the group is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
An 18-year-old suspect named Hamyd Mourad handed himself to the police at around 11pm last night after reportedly seeing his name on the news.
One police official said the attackers were linked to a Yemeni terrorist network, and Cedric Le Bechec, a witness who encountered the escaping gunmen quoted them as saying: “You can tell the media that it’s al-Qaeda in Yemen.”
The two men who remain at large are believed to be French nationals of Algerian descent and live in Reims, a city 90km east of Paris. They were born in the capital before they had grown up in Rennes. It is not known if Mourad is of a similar background however it is known that the young man recently graduated or still attends a school in his home town of Charleville-Mézières.
Cherif has held a sports instructor qualification and was brought up in a foster family in Brittany after the two brothers became orphaned as children.
Said, who is reported by Le Figaro newspaper to be married, lived in a housing block in Reims and is said to have got on well with his neighbours.
Cherif, 32, had been sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for helping to transport fighters for the alleged purposes of jihad from France to Iraq, for which he served 18 months, the Associated Press reported. He had said he was inspired to do so after witnessing images of CIA torture from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
He was also arrested in January 2005 when he and another man were about to leave France for Syria via Iraq. Kouachi’s lawyer Vincent Ollivier said at the time that his client’s profile was more “pot-smoker from the projects than an Islamist.”
“He smokes, drinks, doesn’t sport a beard and has a girlfriend before marriage,” Ollivier told the French newspaper Liberation the month after his client’s arrest, according to reports by France24.
Cherif and his older sibling Said, 34, were reportedly believed to have been hiding out in a social housing complex in Reims, a city north-east of Paris, before they were thought to have gone on the run.
They are suspected of murdering cartoonists Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, 47, Jean “Cabu” Cabut, 76, Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, 57, Georges Wolinski, 80, and Philippe Honore, 73, with Kalashnikov.
“We are going in soon. Either there is going to be a shoot out or they have got away, tipped off by social media,” an officer had told the French news agency AFP on the manhunt outside the estate.
Magazine columnist and economist Bernard Maris, 68, was also shot dead as well as proof-reader Mustapha Ourrad. Psychoanalyst and columnist Elsa Cayat was the only woman killed in the attack. According to witnesses, the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar”, meaning “God is great”, before storming into the editorial meeting.
Arts festival founder Michel Renaud, caretaker Frederic Boisseau and two police officers Ahmed Merabet and Franck Brinsolaro also died after being shot.
The offices had been firebombed in 2011 for a depiction of Prophet Mohamed on the front cover which said “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing!” under a banner saying “Charia Hebdo” in reference to Sharia law.