Manhunt for Charlie Hebdo killers centres on Picardy


Police hunting two men identified as the suspected gunmen behind Wednesday's massacre centre their search on countryside north-east of Paris.

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The intense manhunt for the two brothers wanted for the Charlie Hebdo magazine massacre focused Thursday on northern France's Picardy region, where helicopters swarmed overhead and heavily armed officers canvassed the countryside and forests in search of the killers, reports CNN.

Authorities have not said definitively they know where Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, are, or where they might be going. Still, their actions - taken after a gas station attendant reportedly told police the armed brothers threatened him near Villers-Cotterêts in Picardy, stole gas and food, then drove off late Thursday morning - speak for themselves.

About 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the gas station, police blocked a rural country road leading to the French village of Longpont. Authorities have not commented in any detail, but pictures showed heavily armed police officers with shields and helmets in the blocked-off area.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls put the Picardy region on the highest alert level, that same level that the entire Ile-de-France region, including Paris, is already under.

But it's hardly the only dangerous place in France. Earlier Thursday, a gunman - dressed in black and wearing what appeared to be a bulletproof vest, just like those who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices - shot and killed a female police officer in the Paris suburb of Montrouge. One person was arrested in that incident, Paris Deputy Mayor Patrick Klugman said, though it's not known if the shooter is still at large.

Authorities have called that a terror attack, even if they haven't outright connected it to Wednesday's slaying of 12 at the satirical magazine's Paris headquarters.

As long as the Kouachi brothers are at large, France's nightmare is not over.

But the European nation's sense of pride, unity and defiance is just as undeniable.

As Charlie Hebdo writer Patrick Pelloux told CNN affiliate BFMTV, "We can't let them win."

Latest updates:

• Paris' iconic Eiffel Tower went dark at 8 p.m. in remembrance of the victims of Wednesday's attack.

• Police hunting for the Kouachi brothers have searched their supposed residences in a number of towns, interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

French authorities "will not tolerate any act, any threat aimed at a place of worship" - presumably a mosque, since the attackers were apparently Muslim - "or any French people because of their origin or their religion," the interior ministry said.

• A ministerial committee has been set up to adapt security measures in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, added Cazeneuve.

• The interior minister said that, in addition to the police officer killed, a municipal official was seriously wounded in Thursday's shooting in Montrouge. He said that "at this stage we cannot establish a link" between that incident and the Charlie Hebdo attack.

US Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Paris to attend a meeting Sunday of international officials convened by Cazeneuve. "The meetings will include discussions on addressing terrorist threats, foreign fighters and countering violent extremism," a US Department of Justice official said.

Read more of this report from CNN.

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