Members of the Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN), a special forces unit of the French army, stormed two locations simultaneously today, killing Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, the two brothers believed to be responsible for the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, as well as a man who had taken a number of hostages in a supermarket and demanded that the Kouachi brothers be freed.
The twin actions brought an end to two days of tension in Paris and throughout France that began Wednesday when the Kouachis forced their way into the Paris office of the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people, including five cartoonists. The attack was apparently in retaliation for cartoons the magazine had published that mocked the Prophet Muhammad. The two gunmen fled in a series of hijacked cars, and this morning they engaged into a shootout with police on the N2 motorway at Dammartin-en-Goële, near the Charles de Gaulle airport. The brothers fled to a nearby print shop, where they took one person hostage.
In the early afternoon, an associate of the two brothers, Amedy Coulibaly, took a number of hostages in a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris and threatened to kill them unless the Kouachis were freed. (Coulibaly is believed to be the same person who shot a policewoman and a street sweeper on Thursday morning in a separate incident.) Shortly before 5 p.m. French time, the GIGN forces attacked both locations. The Kouachi brothers were taken by surprise and the assault was over "in a matter of minutes," according to Rocco Contento, spokesman for the Unité S.G.P. police union, leaving both suspects dead.
There are conflicting reports as to the fate of the hostage at this writing. UPDATE: FranceTV reports the hostage was unharmed.
At the same time, special forces also stormed the supermarket with stun grenades and killed Coulibaly. Initial reports are that four of the hostages are dead, although it's not clear whether they were killed in the initial hostage-taking or during the final attack. A number of other hostages were freed. Police believe an accomplice of Coulibaly, Hayat Boumeddiene, is still at large and is armed and dangerous; she allegedly took part in the Thursday morning shooting.
Both Chérif Kouachi and Coulibaly spoke to the French television station BFM during the sieges. Kouachi said he had been "sent by al-Qaida in Yemen." Coulibaly said he had killed four hostages and that he had chosen that grocery store because "it was Jewish."