PARIS –– The two main suspects in the Islamist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris are said to have robbed a service station in the north of France.
Anti-terrorism police have converged on an area near Villers-Cotterets where the gunmen were reported by French media to have stolen food
France has observed a minute’s silence for the 12 people killed at the office of the satirical magazine.
Earlier, a gunman shot dead a policewoman south of Paris and fled.
It is unclear if the attack in Montrouge, in which a second person was seriously injured, was linked to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, but French prosecutors say they are treating it as a “terrorist act”, AFP reports.
The manager of the service station that was robbed on the RN2 road, in the Aisne region, at about 10:30 a.m. (09:30 GMT) said the attackers fit the description of the two men, and were heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The two prime suspects, Cherif and Said Kouachi, are said to have driven off in a Renault Clio car, apparently the same vehicle hijacked in Paris soon after the attack at Charlie Hebdo.
The highest security alert has been imposed in the Picardy region where police are searching for both men, officials say. Police have blocked a road running between the N2 road and the village of Longpont, where a witness says officers have been making house-to-house inquiries.
According to French commercial channel BFMTV, police are monitoring all of the main entry roads into the capital.
A third man who was initially sought handed himself in to police in the eastern city of Charleville-Meziere late yesterday. It is not yet clear if he is regarded as a suspect.
There is obviously a sense of unease in Paris, with another fatal armed attack so soon after the murders at Charlie Hebdo. But most people are also going about their daily business –– sending the message that life goes on.
On this day of national mourning, though, with church bells ringing throughout the land, there has been no time for reflection for the police and security services. The fear is of further copycat attacks, or that those already involved could try to strike again.
For now that is the focus of official efforts –– a huge manhunt is under way, with the police hoping that they may be closing in on the two leading suspects in the Aisne region, north-east of Paris.
Security has also been increased at public places to try to provide extra reassurance. Calls for calm, and above all for unity, will continue to be heard.