All pictures on this page show police at the scene this morning. Pictures: AP
A siege situation is developing after French security forces swarmed into a small industrial town to capture two heavily-armed brothers suspected of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
The two heavily armed brothers Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, have been cornered inside a printing house near Charles de Gaulle airport and appear to have taken a hostage, officials said.
Shots were fired as the brothers stole a car in the early hours, and there were reports of hostages and other deaths in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, about 25 miles north east of Paris.
Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport has closed two runways to arrivals amid the massive operation.
An airport spokesman said the flight diversions are not affecting schedules.
Thousands of French security forces have mobilised to find the two men after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices on Wednesday that left 12 people dead.
Hundreds of French security forces backed by a convoy of ambulances streamed into the small industrial town of Dammartin-en-Goele, north east of Paris, in a massive operation to seize the men suspected of carrying out France’s deadliest terror attack in decades.
At least three helicopters hovered above the town, near Charles de Gaulle airport. Two runways were closed to arrivals to avoid interfering in the standoff, an airport spokesman said. Schools went into lockdown.
French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed an operation was underway in Dammartin, speaking moments after an emergency meeting with the president, prime minister and senior police.
Hours earlier, the brothers stole a Peugeot amid gunfire in the town of Montagny Sainte Felicite, about 30 miles north east of Paris.
Fench prime minister Manuel Valls has said both brothers were known to intelligence services.
One brother was convicted of terrorism charges in 2008. Survivors of the bloody assault on Charlie Hebdo said the attackers claimed allegiance to al Qaida in Yemen.
The weekly newspaper had been repeatedly threatened – and its offices were firebombed in 2011 – after satirising Islam and depicting the prophet Muhammad in caricature.
Authorities around Europe have warned of the threat posed by the return of Western jihadis trained in warfare. France counts at least 1,200 citizens in the war zone in Syria – headed there, returned or dead.
Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida have threatened France – home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.
At least three helicopters hovered above the town. Two runways were closed to arrivals to avoid interfering in the standoff, an airport spokesman said.
The brothers are holed up inside CTF Creation Tendance Decouverte. Xavier Castaing, the chief Paris police spokesman, and town hall spokeswoman Audrey Taupenas, said there appeared to be one hostage inside the printing house.
Christelle Alleume, who works across the street, said that a round of gunfire interrupted her coffee break this morning.
“We heard shots and we returned very fast because everyone was afraid,” she told i-Tele. “We had orders to turn off the lights and not approach the windows.”
Prime minister Manuel Valls has said both men were known to intelligence services.
A senior US official said the elder Kouachi had travelled to Yemen, although it was unclear whether he was there to join extremist groups such as al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based there.
The younger brother, Cherif, was convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for his links to a network sending jihadis to fight American forces in Iraq.