Three days of terrorist violence in France came to an end late on Friday afternoon when security forces launched two simultaneous assault operations.
Four hostages died in the siege in the kosher Jewish supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in Paris. The suspected terrorist gunman Amedy Coulibaly was killed as he fired on the police officers when they broke into the shop.
At Dammartin-en-Goele north of Paris, the two brothers suspected of murdering 12 people in Wednesday’s attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo died in an exchange of fire with commandos.
In the Vincennes supermarket siege, the Paris prosecutor said later that the victims were “probably” killed by the gunman when he took them hostage, and not during the assault by security forces.
Television pictures showed a body lying motionless on the floor of the shop as the police entered the supermarket. Gunfire followed an explosion and as the assault force piled into the building many of the hostages were seen running from the scene.
Fifteen were freed, some were carried out on stretchers while a young child was seen being carried away. Four people were wounded but their lives are not said to be in danger. There were also several injuries among the police.
Earlier on Friday a man claiming to be the gunman Amedy Coulibaly told French TV station BFMTV that he was a member of the Islamic State militant group and that he had “co-ordinated” his attack with the Kouachi brothers.
He was also suspected of being behind the shooting of a policewoman – 26-year-old Clarissa Jean-Philippe – at Montrouge in the south of the French capital on Thursday. Coulibaly was reportedly formally identified when his DNA was found on a balaclava left behind at the scene.
The policewoman, still officially a trainee, came from Martinique and had spent three weeks with her family on the French Caribbean island over Christmas.
Police had already been hunting 32-year-old Coulibaly along with a 26 year-old woman Hayat Boumeddiene, who remains on the run.
They believe there were links between Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers, members of the same Islamist unit in northern Paris.
Paris chief prosecutor Francois Molins told a press briefing that the two Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly had an arsenal of weapons and had set up booby traps. He said they had a loaded M82 rocket launcher, two Kalashnikov machine guns and two automatic pistols on them.
“On the body of one of the terrorists, the demining teams also found a grenade that had been positioned as a trap,” Molins said.
He said Coulibaly had attacked police forces with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a “Skorpion” military pistol. After he was shot, police found two Russian-made Tokarev pistols, two machine guns, a bullet-proof vest and ammunition in the kosher supermarket.
“The supermarket had also been booby-trapped,” he said, noting that Coulibaly had placed 15 explosive sticks and one detonator in the supermarket.
Questions are being asked as to how the attacks were not prevented given that all three gunmen were well known to the authorities.
In the three-day period in which France experienced its worst terrorist attacks for decades, 17 victims died along with the three hostage-takers.