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A Review Of The Day's Violent Tumult In France


It's the end of a stunning day in Paris. Two standoffs involving armed men began and apparently have just ended. One involved two suspects in this week's massacre at a Paris magazine. Their lives ended in warehouse outside the city. The other situation involved at least one man who'd been associated with the suspects in the past. He was believed to be the gunman who took control of a kosher market and held several hostages until this hour when police moved in. Lauren Frayer is going to join us right now to talk more about this. She is in Paris. And, Lauren, can we start there at the warehouse with the two men who are suspects in the massacre at Charles Hebdo?

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: That's right, the two men, they're brothers - both in their early 30s, both French citizens - were holed up in that factory for almost eight hours all day. This whole standoff there began early this morning, about 830, when they stole a local woman's car. She recognized them immediately - their pictures have been plastered all over French media for the past two days - and called police immediately. She saw them unmasked. She says she saw them armed with heavy weapons. And then they took up positions at this building. It's a printing factory on the outskirts of this village. And I have to say, it's a really bucolic area - about 25 miles outside of Paris. It's right next to Charles de Gaulle Airport.It's the green farm fields that you see when you land at that airport. So the juxtaposition of this major security operation with hundreds of police and hundreds of French soldiers and helicopters there, it was just shocking for all of us watching, but certainly for the villagers there as well. All day residents were calling into French TV describing how they were under lockdown in their homes terrified. One man said his elderly neighbor came and joined him because she was so frightened. A nearby school was under lockdown. Some 900 people - students and teachers - were held in that school all day, safe. But parents were told don't even try to come pick up your children, wait for word from authorities. So it was a terrifying situation for so many people in that village and across France. And we're hearing that it has come to an end.


Now let's just go through that if we can. Can you describe what you know about how this standoff did end?

FRAYER: So France has been glued to their televisions for the past day. And you see a split screen with two standoffs, one in Paris and one in this village. And it's really been a static situation, as I said, for eight hours, until about half an hour ago when we heard explosions and gunshots. And just as sort of darkness was falling over the village, clouds of white and gray smoke were emerging from above that little factory building where the suspects were believed to be holed up. You could watch black clad - what we now know to be security officials - scaling the walls of that building in black ski masks and explosions, flashes of light. A really dramatic conclusion.And we weren't sure yet what the conclusion would be, and police have just confirmed that those two suspects inside have been killed. French media adding a little bit more detail saying they actually came out fighting, firing on the security officials and they were killed. Also all day, we've been trying to confirm whether or not they had a hostage. The interior ministry denied up until now that those two suspects had a hostage. Now we're hearing from police that there was a hostage and that hostage has been freed, though, we don't know the person's identity.

MONTAGNE: That gets us to the other standoff of the morning, and that was at the kosher market where they clearly. At least one attacker clearly did have hostages, that was confirmed, not sure how many. That - in this coordinate security assault - that market was also taken back. And that attacker - tell us what happened to him that you know and what you understand happened to the hostages.

FRAYER: Right. That's the other side of the split screen. And once again, it was a static situation for hours and then a dramatic conclusion. We saw - there have been - there's been a wide cordon around that kosher supermarket of ambulances, security officials, SWAT teams. All of that side of Paris has been shut down for hours. And then, just moments ago, we heard explosions and gunfire, and we saw security officials surrounding a few people in civilian dress.And again, those are the security officials dressed in all black in ski masks and riot gear escorting, hurrying out of the building with some civilians. And one security official I saw actually had what we now know to be one of the hostages swung over his shoulder like in a firemen's hold, rushing out of the building, holding this person over his shoulders and helping them flee from the situation. And police have confirmed also there that the hostages have been freed.

MONTAGNE: And the attackers all dead. Steve?

INSKEEP: The attacker or attackers believed to be dead in that situation or what is known?

FRAYER: That's what we're hearing from French media. Now, we haven't not gotten an official word from the interior ministry, but all of this has been taking place while French president Francois Hollande and his cabinet were in crisis meeting - yet another crisis meeting - today. We could possibly have some official word from them as they emerge. And, you know, Parisians are certainly hoping to breathe a sigh of relief and hear officially that this is indeed over after two and a half days of attacks...

INSKEEP: Two things quickly to follow up on. First question would be why now? Why would the authorities move now? Perhaps one clue in what you said - you said there were some indications that the attackers outside Paris came out fighting. That may be part of the answer. We may learn that that is part of the answer as to why the authorities assaulted both locations now, I suppose.

FRAYER: That's right. And we don't know who initiated this standoff that has dramatically reached in a conclusion in both of these situations. We don't know whether police said enough is enough, we're going in, or whether those suspects came out fighting.

INSKEEP: And in another instance, if I can, Lauren Frayer, we heard many reports of other - a metro station closed, other signs of emergencies around Paris. Have all of those come to nothing? Is everything calm at this point as far as you know?

FRAYER: So far, as we know. This has been such a tense situation that police have just not been taking any chances. One of the metro stops close to where I'm sitting right near the Eiffel Tower was a evacuated - imagine, this is a really busy tourist hub - evacuated. We have not heard of any suspicious packages or any reason for that. But police were taking every threat seriously, you know. As you can imagine we have these ongoing security...

INSKEEP: Lauren.

FRAYER: ...Operation. Go ahead.

INSKEEP: Lauren, I got to stop you there, but thank you for your extraordinary work throughout this morning. That's reporter Lauren Frayer in Paris today where two different hostage situations appear to have ended, one inside and outside Paris. You can stay tuned to NPR News at npr.org and All Things Considered this afternoon for the latest reliable information. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.