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Between 2 Police Standoffs, Tensions Flare In Paris

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

French police are now surrounding two buildings. One is far in the countryside in a town outside of Paris. One is in the eastern part of the city itself. Both, according to the authorities, have gunmen inside. At least one - possibly both - are hostage situations. The people that have been living through this week in Paris include Vivienne Walt. She is a reporter for Time magazine based in Paris, and she came to the phone a short time ago.

Let's work through those two incidents, if we can. First, with the kosher market. What is it you feel you know at this point for sure?

VIVIENNE WALT: Well, basically, the police (inaudible) incident have one, we believe, shooter hold up in this kosher supermarket on the easternmost edge of Paris, a neighborhood called Porte de Vincennes. And we believe that he has at least five hostages inside, including women and children. The situation is particularly hazardous in the sense that he's believed to be armed and he is believed to be the gunman who shot two police officers at a traffic control in southern Paris yesterday morning. One of those traffic officers is now dead.

INSKEEP: And we should probably add a note of caution - certainly add a note of caution here as we connect these incidents. We may learn that the facts are a little different as we go along. But you're saying that right now police are drawing a line between this other shooting and the ongoing hostage situation. And then of course there is the additional situation, well outside of Paris, beyond Charles de Gaulle Airport in this small French town where, in a large industrial building, the two suspected Charlie Hebdo shooters are holed up, Cherif and Said Kouachi. What are you learning about that situation?

WALT: Well, they fled to this building from a wooded area further outside Paris early this morning. They took what we believe is one hostage, a woman in a small catering company. And it's a very, very small town, actually just the other side of Charles de Gaulle Airport, which is this huge airport. And the police, crack SWAT teams, helicopters overhead, have them surrounded and encircled. The interior minister told reporters - fairly confident earlier this morning - that he believed that they had the two men that they were looking for. And it appeared to be the (speaking French), if you'd like, the final last, desperate act of these men. And this was before the second hostage situation unfolded. Everything seemed to be moving towards one final climax.

INSKEEP: And now we have an ever-widening situation. Now, you mentioned the belief that there may be a hostage out there in the industrial building. How certain are you of that fact? It's been described as a possible hostage, as if perhaps they've claimed to have a hostage and it's not certain.

WALT: We do not quite know. And one has to say that many of the details, if not all of the details, are emerging as fairly speculative - unnamed police sources and so on. However, both the prime minister and the spokesman of the interior minister in the last couple of hours have come out with firm statements saying that they're almost sure that the intelligence points to links between these two incidents. And that is, I think, the most solid, credible statement we've heard on this issue so far.

INSKEEP: The next question that I suppose has to be raised is whether there might be still more people associated with these suspects who are out there, authorities must be looking.

WALT: Absolutely. And these suspects, most of them, are really no mystery to law enforcement agencies, intelligence officials in France. Cherif Kouachi, for example, the younger of the two brothers who are believed to have pulled off the Charlie Hebdo attack has been known to police for nearly a decade. He tried to go fight in Iraq. He is part of a fairly wide network of young French who come from the 19th district of Paris of the north - the northeastern edge of the city, a fairly kind of downtrodden immigrant-heavy area. And they have been tracked by intelligence agents for many years. They're known as a fairly well-connected group of young jihadists who were involved in the conflict in Iraq, and I believe, more recently, involved in the conflict in Syria.

INSKEEP: OK. Vivienne Walt of Time magazine, thanks very much.

WALT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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