Palpable Relief On Parisian Streets After Hostage Crises End

Jan 9, 2015
Originally published on January 12, 2015 7:06 pm
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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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 in eastern Paris was killed when police stormed the store. Four hostages were killed. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports now from Paris.

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ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: France's double hostage-taking drama came to an end with a simultaneous police assault on both the village printing shop, where the Kouachi brothers took a hostage in the morning, and a Paris kosher grocery, where a second gunman had been holding five people since the afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN)

BEARDSLEY: Despite the death of four hostages, there was palpable relief on the streets of Paris at dusk when both the sieges were over. Contan Dupon (ph) lives in the neighborhood near the kosher grocery store, which was locked down by riot police for most of the day.

CONTAN DUPON: I came near the place where it just happened to share my emotions and to make me feel better. And, like, the sentence in French, Je suis Charlie, to show to the world, and - I'm, like, crying. (Laughter). First time in my life, I'm crying in English.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Most of France seemed to be watching the two hostage situations unfold on television. Split screens showed black-clad riot police preparing for assaults in both rural lanes and urban streets. France mobilized an unprecedented 88,000 police and military for the manhunt, which began three days ago when brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi shot 10 journalists and two police officers at the headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Speaking on national television tonight, President Francois Holland congratulated the nation's police and security forces for neutralizing the terrorists and saving lives. He told the French that remaining united was their best weapon against terrorism.

As the manhunt went on this week, France learned a lot about the Kouachi brothers. Thirty-two-year-old Cherif served 18 months in jail for being involved in a Paris jihadist ring sending fighters to Iraq. U.S. officials reveal that older brother Said had been in Yemen. Both men were on a U.S. no-fly list.

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CHERIF KOUACHI: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: This evening after it was all over, a French radio station aired an interview with Cherif Kouachi recorded during the siege that the French police have verified as authentic.

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KOUACHI: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: "I was sent by al-Qaida in Yemen," says Kouachi.

It's the first claim of responsibility for the attacks. French media, quoting police sources, say the two hostage situations were linked, that the gunman who seized the kosher grocery store and the Kouachi brothers knew each other and were part of the same jihadist network broken up by police 10 years ago.

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BEARDSLEY: Earlier today, Nigerian immigrant Ochi Egim (ph) stood by the police blockade near the kosher supermarket as the drama unfolded. Egim says he cannot understand the motivation of the gunmen.

OCHI EGIM: These boys, these terrorists, you know, they were born here; they grew up here; they went to school here. And they don't know what they want. So they don't belong to nowhere, and they're against everybody.

BEARDSLEY: The world has looked on in horror at the events in France this week. On Sunday, world leaders will come to Paris and march with President Hollande to show their solidarity with his country. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.