Police are continuing to hunt for the girlfriend of one of the gunmen in the Paris massacres - after three days of terror in the French capital ended in dramatic police shoot-outs yesterday.
Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who killed 12 people at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, were shot dead by police yesterday afternoon after a tense stand-off on an industrial estate.
In a co-ordinated swoop, moments later elite armed officers clad all in black stormed a Jewish supermarket where their accomplice Amedy Coulibaly was holding 19 people hostage inside.
Television footage shows the moment Coulibaly runs out of the kosher store firing and is taken down by a volley of bullets shot by French police.
But prosecutors last night confirmed the authorities are still searching for Coulibaly’s girlfriend accomplice, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, who is believed to be on the run.
She is also thought to be involved in the murder of a female police officer south of Paris on Thursday morning.
Details have emerged of the dramatic end to the two sieges which had plunged France into terror for a third day.
The Kouachis brothers had been on the run for two days after gunning down 12 people at the satirical magazine on Wednesday morning.
They were tracked to a stretch of forest and eventually cornered to a print works around 30 miles outside of Paris.
There they took a man hostage, but unknown to them another man was hidden underneath a sink in the building and able to direct the police to the killers using his mobile phone.
Dramatic footage from the Kouachis’ and Coulibaly’s final moments were played out on television screens.
Flashes of light accompanied the rapid gunfire in dramatic scenes which last for about 10 seconds.
Minutes before the explosions, balaclava-clad officers were seen moving towards the building.
The brothers, who were directed to carry out the terror attack by a member of al Qaida’s branch in Yemen, reportedly emerged from the building firing guns but were both shot dead by police.
Meanwhile, in Paris, armed police surrounded a Jewish supermarket where Coulibaly, 32, was holding men women and children hostage.
There were 19 people inside the store when Coulibaly entered. He killed four people immediately while the others are said to have sought safety in a cold store room in the basement, huddled together as they endured sub zero temperatures.
Police were able to hear what was happening inside through a telephone left off the hook and seized upon the moment the terrorist knelt down for evening prayers to storm the building in a volley of rapid fire and smoke.
They killed him as he attempted to flee, and the 15 hostages dashed out to freedom.
In what would become one of the most poignant images of the three-day massacre, grief-stricken hostages, including children, were seen huddled together and being led quickly to safety as members of the public and media were urged to move back. Another was carried in a fireman’s lift following the four-and-a-half-hour ordeal.
Three police officers were among the 20 killed in the terror attacks.
Prosecutor Francois Molins last night said Coulibaly and his girlfriend spoke with the Kouachi brothers “500 times” over the telephone.
Last night French president Francois Hollande called on the country to “remain vigilant” as the hostage crisis which started at the Charlie Hebdo magazine massacre came to a bloody end with the loss of at least 20 lives.
As France came to terms with a tragedy that rocked the nation, Mr Hollande said in an address: “I call you all to be vigilant, to remain united and remain mobilised. Vigilance is something the state must demonstrate.
“I ask you to remain united - it’s our best weapon. It shows we are determined to fight against anything that can divide us.”
A number of international dignitaries, including Prime Minister David Cameron, are expected to arrive in Paris this weekend for tomorrow’s unity rally.
The Kouachi brothers started the killing spree on Wednesday morning when they attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
It is understood that the duo, who were well-known for holding jihadist views, were on a British watch and no-fly list to prevent them from entering the UK or passing through a British airport. They were also on a United States no-fly list.
A member of al Qaida’s branch in Yemen said the group directed the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Questions have been asked about whether the deadly attacks could have been avoided if the French authorities had been more vigilant to the threat posed by the two brothers, who were already on their radar.
French prime minister Manuel Valls said on BFM television. “There was a failing, of course. That’s why we have to analyse what happened.”
The brothers left a trail of dead bodies in their wake, include three Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and its editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb.
Several people, including police officers, remain in hospital following the shootings across the French capital and its surroundings, at the hands of the Kouachis, Coulibaly and any associates.
The Kouachis stole a Peugeot yesterday morning in the town of Montagny Sainte Felicite, triggering a car chase during which gunfire was reported and Said was injured.
Before they were killed, they were said to have declared they want to die “as martyrs”.
A salesman told how he inadvertently shook the hand of one of the terrorists when he arrived for a meeting with the owner of the printing firm this morning, whose name he gave as Michel.
The eyewitness, named as Didier, told radio station France Info that he encountered a “heavily armed” man dressed in black and wearing a bullet-proof vest.
He said: “I encountered a terrorist and shook his hand. (The armed man) said to me ‘I am the police. Go, we do not kill civilians’.
“I decided to call the police. I guess that was one of the terrorists.
“They were heavily armed. I was in front of the business, I shook Michel’s hand and the hand of one of the terrorists. After I left, Michel shut the gate behind me. I knew something was wrong. I have been very lucky this morning.”
A lockdown was imposed in the surrounding area as scores of heavily armed police surrounded the building.
Residents in the vicinity were warned to stay in their homes and children were being kept inside schools.