A deadly attack, a reported sighting, another day on edge Thursday in France, where the manhunt continues for two brothers wanted for the massacre at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Authorities are calling the Thursday morning killing of a female police officer in the Paris suburb of Montrouge a terror attack, but have not connected it to Wednesday’s slaying of 12 people at the magazine’s headquarters. The man who shot the police officer was dressed — like the Charlie Hebdo attackers — in all black and was apparently wearing a bulletproof vest.
One person was arrested in that incident, Paris Deputy Mayor Patrick Klugman said, though it’s not known if the shooter is still at large.
Nor have they confirmed French media reports that a gas station attendant near Villers-Cotterets in the northern Picardy region of France, told police that he saw the Charlie Hebdo suspects later Thursday morning. The men reportedly threatened the attendant and stole gas and food before heading toward Paris.
Regardless, both scenes were a flurry of police activity Thursday. In Montrouge, south of Paris, about 20 heavily armed police at one point pushed back crowds and surrounded an apartment building.
And in Villers-Cotterets, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of the capital in the northern French countryside, the gas station was cordoned off with about 30 officers and a forensic truck on the scene. French police in Crepy-en-Valois told CNN that checkpoints were being set up within 20 kilometers, in multiple directions, of this reported sighting, as helicopters and police convoys canvassed the area.
Still, for all these efforts, neither Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, are in custody. And that means France’s nightmare isn’t over.
But the European nation’s sense of pride, unity and defiance is just as undeniable.
As Charlie Hebdo writer Patrick Pelloux told CNN affiliate BFMTV, “We can’t let them win.”
Latest updates at 11:35 a.m. ET
• Police blocked a rural country road leading to the French village of Longpont, which is about 10 kilometers from where the Charlie Hebdo attackers were reportedly spotted. Authorities have not commented, but heavily armed men are visible in the blocked-off area.
• Prime Minister Manuel Valls has put France’s Picardy region on the highest alert level as the manhunt continues for the Charlie Hebdo attackers, his office said. Those two were reportedly spotted at a gas station in that region. The entire Ile-de-France region, including Paris, is already under the same alert.
• About 30 “Je Suis Charlie” — which translates to “I Am Charlie” — marches are planned at sites around France Thursday night to express solidarity with Charlie Hebdo after the horrific attack.
• Crowds gathered in the rain in Paris to mark a moment’s silence to honor those killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine. Many held up media credentials and broke into applause as the silence ended. The bells of Notre Dame Cathedral tolled across the city.
• Security has been increased at UK ports after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, though no specific threat has been identified, 10 Downing Street said Thursday.
• Klugman, the deputy mayor of Paris, said Thursday that “we may be facing a new wave” of terrorism. “It’s probably not the end … We are ready to face it. We will fight.”
Charlie Hebdo to publish next Wednesday
While its business is satire, Charlie Hebdo has been subject of serious venom.
That includes its publication of a cartoon lampooning the Muslim prophet, Mohammed, which some found very offensive.
The magazine’s offices were fire-bombed after that in 2011, on the same day the magazine was due to release an issue with a cover that appeared to poke fun at Islamic law.
It was attacked again Wednesday, when two masked men entered its offices not far from the famed Notre Dame Cathedral and the Place de la Bastille.
On their way into the building, they asked exactly where the offices were. The men reportedly spoke fluent French with no accent.
They barged in on the magazine’s staff, while they were gathered for a lunchtime editorial meeting. The gunmen separated the men from the women and called out the names of cartoonists they intended to kill, said Dr. Gerald Kierzek, a physician who treated wounded patients and spoke with survivors.
The shooting was not a random spray of bullets, but more of a precision execution, he said.
The two said they were avenging the Prophet Mohammed and shouted “Allahu akbar,” which translates to “God is great,” Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said.
Cell phone cameras caught two gunmen as they ran back out of the building, still firing. One of them ran up to a wounded police officer lying on a sidewalk and shot him point-blank.
It was the deadliest attack in Europe since July 2011, when Anders Behring Brevik killed 77 people in attacks on government buildings in Oslo, Norway, and at a youth camp on the island of Utoya.
But it won’t stop Charlie Hebdo. Pelloux told BFMTV that thousands of copies of magazine will be published next Wednesday.
‘It was their only mistake’
The two masked men apparently left behind a getaway car, which police impounded. CNN affiliate BFMTV reported that police found an identification card of one of the Kouachi brothers during their investigations.
“It was their only mistake,” said Dominique Rizet, BFMTV’s police and justice consultant, reporting that the discovery helped the investigation.
The Kouachi brothers returned from Syria in the summer, USA Today reported, without saying where it got the information.
Officials were running their names through databases to look for connections with ISIS and al Qaeda. The suspects were known to security services, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.
A third suspect, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, turned himself in to police, a source close to the case told the AFP news agency. Mourad did so late Wednesday after seeing his name mentioned on social media, the source said.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that seven people overall have been detained in connection with the Charlie Hebdo attack, according to AFP.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean authorities are any closer to Cherif and Said Kouachi.
‘Parisians will not be afraid’
The victims’ names were splashed Thursday across newspapers as heroes for freedom of expression. “Liberty assassinated.” “We are all Charlie Hebdo,” the headlines blared.
They included two police officers, Stephane Charbonnier — a cartoonist and the magazine’s editor, known as “Charb” — and three other well-known cartoonists known by the pen names Cabu, Wolinski and Tignous.
Flags flew at half-staff on public buildings and events were canceled Thursday, a national day of mourning.
“I can’t remember such a day since 9/11,” said Klugman, Paris’ deputy mayor. “The country really is in a kind of shutdown in respect and memory of the 12 people killed.”
The day earlier, thousands poured into streets in hordes in a show of solidarity, holding up pens and chanting, “We are Charlie!” Similar demonstrations took place in cities in addition to Paris, including Rome, Berlin and Barcelona.
According to Klugman, “Parisians will not be afraid.”