Policewoman shot in Paris; hunt for Charlie Hebdo suspects continues – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Thursday, January 08, 2015

Tensions mounted in France on Thursday after the killing of another police officer in Paris and reports that two gunmen sought in a nationwide manhunt robbed a gas station in the northern part of the country.

As France awoke to the aftermath of its deadliest attack on home soil in decades, a national day of mourning was marked with flags flying at half staff and crowds gathering at some of the country’s best-known monuments at noon for a minute of silence.

Live updates: Charlie Hedbo plans to print next week, 2 suspects on loose

The memorials came as authorities hunted for the gunmen who a day earlier had launched a deadly attack against the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, including the magazine’s editor, several well-known cartoonists and two police officers.

Police said they are searching for Said Kouachi, 34, and his brother Cherif, 32. In 2008, the older sibling was convicted on terror-related charges for recruiting fighters for the insurgency in Iraq during U.S.-led military operations there.

The two reportedly robbed a gas station in the north of France early Thursday, according to French media, and the scene has since been cordoned off.

There were conflicting reports about the sighting. Some said they were heavily armed and stole food and gas before getting in a Renault Clio and driving in the direction of Paris.

Also Thursday, a female police officer was shot to death while investigating a car accident, but it was not immediately clear if the shooting was linked to Wednesday’s killings. The incident, which also left a street sweeper injured, took place in the Montrouge neighborhood in the south of Paris.

Gunfire erupted after the trainee officer went to investigate a car accident about 8 a.m., officials said.

France’s Le Monde newspaper said the gunman in that attack had two weapons, immediately fled and remained at large.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve left a meeting with top-level security officials to rush to the scene, but he sought to allay concerns and told people not to jump to any conclusions.

“There was an officer in front of a white car and a man running away who shot,” Ahmed Sassi, who saw the shooting from his home nearby, told the Associated Press. “It didn’t look like a big gun because he held it with one hand,” Sassi said.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls told France’s RTL radio that there had been several detentions overnight in connection with the manhunt for the Kouachi brothers . A security official put the figure at seven, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, across Paris mourners gathered to honor those killed in Wednesday’s attack. Thick gray clouds hung low in the sky and residents hurried around under umbrellas with their heads low.

Hundreds gathered in front of the historic Notre Dame cathedral, where the bells chimed to mark the moment of silence. The somber crowd fell quiet, then broke into spontaneous applause as the 60 seconds ended.

Bishop Jerome Beau presided over a short Mass inside the cathedral, telling the congregation that “violence just breeds violence.”

France Television workers gathered outside their offices, holding signs to join the national mourning.

Outside the National Assembly, people huddled together under umbrellas in the relentless drizzle. President Francois Hollande stood on the steps in the courtyard, facing rows of police standing at attention.

Lawyer Thomas Elm stood silently in front of the building. His office was nearby, and despite the dreary, wet day that only added to the sense of melancholy that had settled over the city, he did not want to be alone at this poignant moment, he said.

“The French like to argue and fight, and debate our differences in politics and religion. And sometimes we do it very loudly,” he said. “But at a moment like this, we put that aside and have an ability to present a unique, unified front. I want to be out here in front of the assembly because it’s a symbol of our republic and our freedom and democracy.”

Nearby, four women stood under umbrellas holding hands. Another man stood with his fist held high in the air against a backdrop of four flags that had been lowered to half-mast.

The Metro halted service for a full minute, and across the city, some newsstands put up black posters with the words #JeSuisCharlie, French for “I Am Charlie,” to show solidarity with the slain journalists.

The hashtag started trending on Twitter soon after the shocking assault that has been branded a terrorist attack by the government.

It was chanted at many of the spontaneous vigils that took place across the country Wednesday night, and those present also symbolically held pens in the air.

The hashtag #MouradHamydInnocent also started to trend on Twitter in France, allegedly started by classmates of the third man named in connection with the attack.

Hamyd Mourad, 18, reportedly turned himself into authorities late Wednesday after learning he was being sought as a suspect.

“Hamyd Mourad handed himself in to police … on Wednesday at 11:00 pm (2200 GMT) after seeing his name circulating on social media,” the news service Agence France-Presse reported. “He has been arrested and taken into custody.”

There were also reports that a mosque in Le Mans, southwest of Paris, had come under grenade and gun attack.

Boyle and O’Brien are special correspondents.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

6:30 a.m.: This story has been updated throughout with new details.

The story was originally published at 4:49 a.m.

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