French police have deployed elite forces in the search for two brothers suspected of having killed 12 people in Paris. The search was concentrated on a rural area of northeastern France
Police on Friday continued to search for Cherif Kouachi, 32 and his brother Said,34, two days after 12 people were killed when two gunmen stormed the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Bernhard Cazeneuve said late on Thursday that a total of 88,000 police and military forces had been deployed to search for the two suspects, who are said to be armed and dangerous. Four hundred soldiers were among those searching for the two brothers.
The search was focused on the rural Aisne region near the town of Villers-Cotterets, around 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Paris. It wasn't clear whether the two suspects were traveling in a car or were on foot in the hilly, wooded region.
The last reported sighting of them was at a nearby petrol station, which they robbed. There are conflicting reports on whether they fled in a car that they had stolen shortly after Wednesday's shooting, or whether they had abandoned the getaway car, as reported by some media outlets.
Link to AQAP
Meanwhile, more details about the suspects have emerged over the past 24 hours, with European and American sources said to be close to the French investigation saying that Said had been trained in Yemen by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). A Yemini official later confirmed that the government was aware of a possible link between Kouachi and AQAP, and was investigating the connection. Cherif was also known to the authorities, having previously served 18 months in jail in 2005 for involvement in a network sending fighters to join the insurgency in Iraq.
Both suspects were born in Paris to Algerian parents, but were orphaned at an early age.
Flags on public buildings in France continued to fly at half mast on Friday, as ordered by President Francois Hollande in a show of respect for the victims of Wednesday's shooting. Vigils have been held across France and beyond over the past couple of nights, in shows of solidarity of the killed journalists in particular, with many holding up signs reading "Je suis Charlie," (I am Charlie).
Meanwhile, French Muslims were expected to attend regular Friday prayers at mosques across the country. On Thursday, the French Muslim Council called on worshippers to gather "in dignity and silence," and urged imams to use condemn "violence and terrorism."
pfd/rc (dpa, AFP)