“We are ready to die as martyrs,” the Charlie Hebdo killers have reportedly said after they seized a hostage and are now holed up on an industrial estate near a Paris airport, at Dammartin-en-Goele, north-east of the capital, where they are surrounded by dozens of armed police.
The airport authorities closed a few runways amid fears that the perpetrators may have anti-aircraft weapons.
The killers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, believed to have affiliations with terror group Al Quaeda, exchanged gunfire with the police after a long car chase towards Paris.
However, the public prosecutor has deny reports there had been casualties.
The gunmen are believed to have taken one hostage with them into a storage unit, which is now surrounded by police commandos who have begun negotiations to try to secure their release.
As helicopters hovered overhead, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: “A police operation is underway.”
The brothers were holed up in a small printing business named Creating Trend Discovery, a source close to the investigation said. “It’s not sure how many people are inside,” the source said.
Prior to the standoff, the suspects had hijacked a Peugeot 206 in Montagny-Sainte-Felicite from a woman who said she recognised them as the wanted men, a police source said.
The standoff was close to the same area where special police forces had been combing the countryside for the brothers.
Dozens of police had earlier pursued the brothers along the National 2 highway, ending Dammartin-en-Goele, around 7 miles from Charles de Gaulle international airport.
The dramatic development came after thousands of police and soldiers had focused their hunt for the gunmen in a nearby forest amid fears they were planning a final ‘spectacular’ before capture.
The search for the gunmen last night focused on a cave in a vast forest in northern France, but had turned up nothing.
The pair left behind their identity cards in the Citroen they used for the massacre – a move which appeared deliberate, intelligence specialists said.