Michel Spingler / AP

Police hunt brothers after attack; third man surrenders as Paris mourns

French police said the pair wanted for attack that left 12 dead at a French satirical paper are armed and dangerous

French police continued their hunt Thursday for two heavily armed men — one with a terrorism conviction and a history in extremist networks — responsible for the methodical killing of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in central Paris. A third man sought in the deadly shooting has turned himself in.

Special forces descended on an area north of the capital following reports of the suspects, still armed, at a gas station in the Aisne region. Security was being beefed up at northern entrances to Paris in case the suspects attempt to return to the city.

Meanwhile, tensions across the country remained high 24 hours after the attack, as France began a national day of mourning. The most senior security official abandoned a top-level meeting after just 10 minutes to rush to a shooting on the city's southern edge that gravely wounded a police officer and a street sweeper. The police officer, who was shot when she stopped to investigate a traffic accident, died of her injuries. The gunman remains at large.

It is not immediately clear if there was a link between Thursday's shooting and the slayings at Charlie Hebdo, which has courted controversy and was targeted before over its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. But authorities in France said that Thursday's killing was being treating as a terrorist incident.

The Eiffel Tower dims it's lights a day after the shooting attack at Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12. Video by Reuters.

Suspects Cherif Kouachi, left, 32, and his brother Said Kouachi, 34.
AFP Photo / French police

The Charlie Hebdo attack — in which four cartoonists and the publications editor were among those killed — also claimed the lives of two police officers.

French authorities said nine people have been detained in relation to the investigation into the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

France's prime minister, Manuel Valls, said that the two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo shootings were known to intelligence services and that the fear that they could carry out another attack "is our main concern."

Valls said the suspects were likely being tracked by intelligence services but "there is no such thing as zero risk."

The suspects, French brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, in their early 30s, should be considered armed and dangerous, according to a police bulletin released early Thursday. Meanwhile, a U.S. Homeland Security official confirmed to Al Jazeera on Thursday that the two brothers were on the U.S. no-fly list. 

Cherif Kouachi, the younger brother, was no stranger to French counterterrorism authorities. He is a former pizza deliveryman who appeared in a 2005 French TV documentary on Islamic extremism and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for trying to join up with fighters battling in Iraq.

Authorities on Thursday said they believe the two men are in the Aisne district in northern France after the possible sighting at the service station.

Meanwhile, a third suspect, Mourad Hamyd, 18, surrendered at a police station in Charleville-Mezieres, a small town in France's eastern Champagne region, said the Paris prosecutor's spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre. She did not offer details on Hamyd's relationship with the Kouachis.

Sources told Reuters the Kouachis were from the Paris region and Hamyd was from the northeastern city of Reims.

The police source said Cherif Kouachi had been charged with criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise in 2005 after he was arrested before leaving for Iraq to join fighters there. He said he was outraged by American troops' torture of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and "really believed in the idea" of fighting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Witnesses said the shooters in Wednesday's attack shouted "Allahu akbar."

President François Hollande said the shooting was a terrorist act "of exceptional barbarism," adding that other attacks were thwarted in France in recent weeks. Fears have been running high in France and elsewhere in Europe that jihadis returning from conflicts in Syria and Iraq will stage attacks at home.

In a somber address to the nation Wednesday night, Hollande pledged to hunt down the killers and pleaded with his compatriots to come together in a time of insecurity and suspicion.

"Let us unite, and we will win," he said. "Vive la France!"

France raised its security alert to the highest level, and schools closed across Paris. Thousands of people jammed the Place de la Republique, near the site of the shooting, to honor the victims, waving pens and signs reading "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie"). Similar rallies and vigils were held in London, Madrid, Berlin, Brussels, New York and Washington, D.C.

Surviving staffers at Charlie Hebdo have indicated that they will push ahead with publishing the next edition of the weekly in defiance of the attack. They are expected to print one million copies — much more than its normal 45,000 circulation — memorial editions in response to the global outrage over the massacre.

Meanwhile bids on Ebay for some past editions had gone over 70,000 euros.

As well as recent copies, people were offering back copies of the November 2011 edition that prompted a firebombing of its offices. That issue titled "Charia Hebdo," with an image lampooning the Prophet Muhammad on the cover, had at one point received bids that topped 14,000 euros, which the seller promised to donate to helping victims of the attack. 

Philippe Val, a former chief of the paper, raised the possibility of publishing a special edition of the newspaper, saying "a way of speaking has been exterminated."

"We must respond, because we must testify for them," he told RTL radio.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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