Fear Sweeps Through France as Manhunt Continues for Gunmen in 'Charlie Hebdo' Massacre

Fear Sweeps Through France as Manhunt Continues for Gunmen in 'Charlie Hebdo' Massacre

French police continued their hunt Thursday for two heavily armed men responsible for the methodical murder of 12 people at the central Paris officers of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday. Authorities say they have identified the three gunmen after one turned himself in to police in a town outside of Paris.

The Associated Press reports, "French brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, in their early 30s, should be considered armed and dangerous, according to a police bulletin released early Thursday." 

A third gunman, Mourad Hamyd, 18, surrendered at a police station in Charleville-Mezieres, a small town in France's eastern Champagne region. A legal source told Reuters that Hamyd said he was the brother-in-law of one of the main suspects.

A police official who spoke on condition of anonymity told NBC News that the men were linked to a Yemeni terrorist network. Cherif Kouachi was convicted in 2008 of terrorism charges for helping funnel fighters to Iraq's insurgency and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He said claimed was outraged at the torture of Iraqi inmates at the U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib near Baghdad and "really believed in the idea" of fighting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Cedric Le Bechec, a witness who encountered the escaping gunmen, quoted the attackers as saying: "You can tell the media that it's al-Qaida in Yemen."

Fear sweeps through France: Further raising tensions in Paris, a French policewoman was killed and another person injured after an unidentified assailant opened fire early Thursday. 

French police do not believe there to be connection to Wednesday's killing at Charlie Hebdo, magazine which had been targeted for violence before over its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. 

The Associated Press reports:

France raised its terror alert system to the maximum — Attack Alert — and bolstered security with more than 800 extra soldiers to guard media offices, places of worship, transport and other sensitive areas. Fears had been running high in France and elsewhere in Europe that jihadis trained in warfare abroad would stage attacks at home.

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on French television Thursday he feared the two Islamist militants who have evaded police since the brutal Wednesday attack "could strike again" as a manhunt for two men widened across the country, Reuters reports.

"That question is entirely legitimate, that's obviously our main concern, and that is why thousands of police and investigators have been mobilized to catch these individuals," said Valls."

Editor's Note: Feb. 12, 2015

An earlier version of this article cited and linked to the Associated Press, but did not include quotations around the phrases "French brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, in their early 30s, should be considered armed and dangerous, according to a police bulletin released early Thursday" or "France raised its terror alert system to the maximum — Attack Alert — and bolstered security with more than 800 extra soldiers to guard media offices, places of worship, transport and other sensitive areas. Fears had been running high in France and elsewhere in Europe that jihadis trained in warfare abroad would stage attacks at home." The story has been updated to fully attribute the Associated Press' language.