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Operation In Motion To Seize French Shooting Suspects


The world's attention is focused on a white, industrial building outside Paris. That's where two suspects in this week's Paris massacre are believed to be hiding. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has been covering this story throughout the morning. She is in Paris, and we're going to work through this scene around that industrial building from outside the building to the inside, working fact by fact, and, Eleanor, let's start outside the building. Where is this structure, and who's surrounding it right now?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: This structure is in a little village called Dammartin-en-Goele, about 25 miles northeast of Paris, in rural - it's in countryside, surrounded by fields. The building is in a little industrial zone outside of the village and surrounding this building right now is a massive agglomeration of law - of police forces. Helicopters are flying overhead, SWAT teams, police vans, ambulances, firetrucks, they are ready for anything to happen right now. And they're surrounding this building where the two brothers are holed up.

INSKEEP: OK, and we're looking at television images of this. Other than the industrial building, which is not so attractive, it's almost a bucolic setting. You see lovely green fields, you see slope-roofed houses. How were the suspects first discovered in that small town outside of Paris?

BEARDSLEY: Well, between 8 and 8:30 this morning they stole a woman's car in that village. And she recognized them because they didn't have masks on because their photo's been plastered all over television screens for the last two days. She recognized them and she saw guns - many guns - she said, in their car and she notified police. That's when the police started moving in. Remember, this whole area they were searching yesterday, so they had a massive amount of forces up there.

They moved in and they began descending on this village; helicopters and police SWAT teams and everyone started coming in. There was a police chase along the road, the national road there. Shots were fired - people heard that. And that's when the men apparently took refuge in this printer - it's a printing company in this little industrial zone. All the people in the village are being told to stay put, even to move away from their windows. Nobody can move. The town is under siege. It's under lockdown. It's a small town in a rural place of only 8,000 people live there and they're all virtually locked down, waiting for this situation to unfold.

INSKEEP: OK, and we're told by the authorities that professional negotiators have arrived on the scene and they have made some kind of phone contact with the suspects who are believed to be inside. So let's now move, fact by fact, inside the building. Cherif and Said Kouachi, the two brothers who are believed to be the suspects, believed to be in that building - what more are you learning about these two men as the days have gone on?

BEARDSLEY: Right, well, the first thing that we learned was that Cherif Kouachi, who's the youngest brother - 32 years old - in 2008, he spent 18 months in prison because he was involved - convicted of being involved - in a jihadi-run network out of the north of Paris that was sending fighters to Iraq. So he spent time in jail for that. And what's interesting is that a French news crew made a documentary about young French people who wanted to fight Jihad back then in 2005, and he was featured in it.

And I watched part of this, Steve, and in that Cherif Kouachi says that the scriptures, or the text, tell us because he was trained by this - he met a preacher who - he said the preacher has told us that texts prove that dying as a martyr attacks is a good thing. So we can actually, from that, infer that this situation could end in any way. It could end as negotiations. It could end in firefight. These men might be ready to die. They've already killed 12 people themselves. So law enforcement - they know about this, they know what that man has said and anything could happen now.

INSKEEP: Anything could happen, you're saying - might end that way - and we want to underline that. You know a statement - we seem to know a statement that was made about a decade ago by one of these young men. I believe you have also reported to us that one of these young men seems to have been in Yemen in more recent years, perhaps receiving some kind of training. Is that correct?

BEARDSLEY: That's correct. That has just recently come to light, actually. The U.S. officials have confirmed that both men were on a no-flight list in the U.S. for years and that the older brother, Said Kouachi, actually went to Yemen. And from analysts here, who are saying from the way they carried themselves the, you know, it was methodical. They were trained shooters. They obviously had training and so we can - they are saying we can infer by that, that this man, Said Kouachi, may have had training in Yemen.

INSKEEP: OK, let's continue going fact by fact. Very briefly, one more assertion that is out there this morning - that there is possibly a hostage with these young men inside the building. Eleanor Beardsley, very briefly, what evidence, if any, tells us that there would be a hostage or that there would not be?

BEARDSLEY: French news is reporting there's a hostage. One reporter said he had spoken with someone inside police forces, but we have not been able to independently confirm that, Steve. And the Minister of Interior said we cannot confirm with - a presence of a hostage or not, so we don't know. It's just being reported by French television right now.

INSKEEP: You know, that's very helpful to know what we don't know. That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley taking us from outside the building to inside. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.