SHAFAQNA – PARIS – A hostage standoff in eastern Paris came to an end on Friday after heavily armed police stormed the kosher supermarket, killing the gunmen suspected of killing Charlie Hebdo journalists.
“We will come out of this challenge stronger,” French President Francois Hollande said in brief remarks, USA today reported.
Media sources reported that at least four hostages had died in the supermarket assault as well as the hostage-taker, but those reports have not been confirmed by French officials, France 24 reported.
The hostage-taker has been “neutralized”, a police source said. Two police officers were injured in the assault to free the hostages.
Police confirmed that Cherif Kouachi, 32, and his older brother Said, 34, who had been cornered in a printing warehouse in the village of Dammartin-en-Goele, were killed in the operation that erupted with loud explosions, smoke and gunfire.
At the same time, security forces in eastern Paris stormed the supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, killing the third gunman, identified as Amedy Coulibaly, 32.
According to Agence France Presse (AFP), the supermarket gunman told French TV during the siege that he “coordinated” with the two Charlie Hebdo killers.
Other reports claimed that the gunman said he was sent and financed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen and that he was a member of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL).
The shootings came on Friday as France’s Muslim imams dedicated their Friday prayer sermon to preach against violence and terrorism, condemning Charlie Hebdo attack and defending the true peaceful nature of their faith.
Heading off expected backlash against French Muslims, President Hollande called on citizens not to let the attacks by the terrorists divide the nation.
“These terrorists, those fanatics have nothing to do with Islam,” he said.
“We need to mobilize to be able to respond by force when needed, but we also must respond with solidarity.”
Several attacks were reported on Wednesday and Thursday on Muslim mosques and facilities across France.
According to Channel 4, one attack took place at a kebab shop next to a mosque in the town of Villefranche-sur-Saône, north of Lyon.
Another blast was reported at about 6am and destroyed the glass frontage of the kebab shop. No injuries were reported.
Hand grenades were reportedly thrown at another mosque in Le Mans, which lies south west of Paris.
Four training grenades were lobbed into the mosque, local media said.
One of the grenades exploded while the three others were found undetonated on Thursday morning.
The attacks have resulted in no arrests by police, but the area has been cordoned off by its forces, local authorities told AFP.
Seeing the Charlie Hebdo attack as a betrayal of Islamic faith, leaders from Muslim countries and organizations have joined worldwide condemnation of the attack, saying the attackers should not be associated with Islam.