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France Hostage Crises End After Chaotic Day


More now on the fast-moving and chaotic day in France. A nationwide manhunt for two brothers suspected of this week's attack on the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, ended with the death of the two men. A hostage they were holding was freed. A second related incident ended nearly simultaneously. A gunman holding hostages in a kosher supermarket was killed when police stormed the store. Four hostages also died. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley joins us now from Paris. And let's take these two hostage situations one at a time. Eleanor, first, the two gunmen - brothers who were being sought for carrying out that attack on Charlie Hebdo - what led up to their deaths?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, this morning they tried to steal a car from a woman. They did steal her car and she recognized them. She saw guns in their car and she called the police. So a chase ensued, a shootout, and the two brothers hunkered down in a printing shop and they took a hostage. So it wasn't long before just a huge military police - riot police were surrounding the town. It was completely in lockdown and there was a hostage situation and they were try to establish contact. All of France was watching that unfold on television.At about on 1 p.m., another shootout in the east of Paris and it turns out to be the person who shot a policewoman woman dead yesterday. He took five hostages in a kosher grocery store - a supermarket - in Paris. So simultaneously we're watching on television split screens riot police in rural lanes and urban streets and, you know, locking down the perimeter. People were just in a state of shock. And then the news media was reporting that the situation were linked because the men knew each other from years ago - a jihad ring in Paris where they were sending fighters to Iraq.

BLOCK: And, as we mentioned, both incidents ended with police storming each of these facilities where the brothers and their associate had taken hostages.

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely. And I was out at the Paris Place in the east of Paris in Vincennes and we just - we heard the stun grenades go off - boom, boom. It sounded like bombs and you knew something was happening. And all of a sudden there were ambulances coming out of that blocked-off avenue. And, you know, now I've seen the footage of it. But there were simultaneously raids at the same time. They went in in the little rural village in to the printing shop and the kosher grocery store and it was over in a matter of minutes.

BLOCK: And do we know, Eleanor - the four hostages who were killed in that kosher grocery store - do we know how they died?

BEARDSLEY: I don't know anything about that yet, and there will be a lot of things - answers to questions coming out in the next few days and weeks I imagine, but no news about that yet.

BLOCK: We are learning more, Eleanor, about the background of these men - their connections and their motivations.

BEARDSLEY: Yea, absolutely. We've been hearing about Cherif Kouachi, who was 32 years old, he was the younger brother. He had a criminal record. He served 18 months in jail. He was involved in this jihad ring in the north of Paris in, like, 2005 to eight, and he spent some time in jail. What we didn't know until actually this morning was that the older brother, Said Kouachi, had spent time in Yemen. And that was confirmed by U.S. officials who also confirmed that both men were on a U.S. no-fly list.

BLOCK: And, Eleanor, worth mentioning that there is one suspect still being sought - a woman who was married to or partnered with one of the men killed today.

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely, and apparently she's gotten away. And how you can get out of a situation like that is anybody's guess.

BLOCK: OK - NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Eleanor, thanks.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.