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At the end of Paris terror standoffs, questions about French security efforts

Three days of terror in France ended with the deaths of three gunmen, including Said and Cherif Kouachi, brothers suspected of killing 12 people in Paris. That raid at a printing plant followed a nearly simultaneous assault at a kosher supermarket, where another gunman had taken at least five hostages who he threatened to kill if the police harmed the Kouachi brothers. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Three days of terror that gripped France are finally over. Police assaults in and around Paris this evening killed a trio of gunmen and freed 16 hostages. Several other captives died, making a total of 20 lives lost in a week of violence and bloodshed.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The beginning of the end came in a blaze of gunfire and explosions just northeast of Paris. Two brothers suspected of killing a dozen people on Wednesday came out shooting after taking a hostage at a printing plant.

    Said and Cherif Kouachi had vowed to die as martyrs, and were cut down by police. Their hostage made it out alive and safe. They had holed up after a high-speed car chase as helicopters buzzed overhead. Schools evacuated children, and convoys of police swarmed to the scene, warning the locals to lock their doors.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    This morning, I was woken up around 9:00 a.m. by the noise of helicopters. There were a lot of police there, and they told me that I needed to go home immediately and I needed to stay indoors.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    That was in Dammartin-en-Goele, near Charles de Gaulle Airport. The raid there followed a nearly simultaneous police assault, 25 miles away, at a kosher supermarket in Eastern Paris.

    Another gunman, identified as Amedy Coulibaly, took at least five hostages in the store, hours before the Jewish Sabbath, and threatened to kill them if police attacked the Kouachi brothers. Coulibaly died when a SWAT team stormed in, as did four of his hostages.

    Afterward, the French interior minister praised both operations.

  • BERNARD CAZENEUVE, Interior Minister, France (through interpreter):

    I have come to express my gratitude to the men and women who have risked their lives to save, in very difficult and complicated conditions, the lives of hostages. And, here, I would like to express the gratitude of all French people and the whole nation, who tonight are feeling relieved.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Amedy Coulibaly, it turned out, was also the suspected gunman who killed a policewoman yesterday in Southern Paris.

    Authorities said his wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, acted as his accomplice. But her whereabouts today were unclear. All of this followed Wednesday's massacre at the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, blamed on the Kouachi brothers. A French TV news network, BFM, reported Cherif Kouachi claimed during today's standoff that they acted at the behest of al-Qaida in Yemen.

    And the group later said it had, indeed, directed that attack. All had been on watch lists, and there were growing questions about France's overall security efforts.

    But French President Francois Hollande called for unity in the wake of this week's events.

  • PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter):

    We must mobilize to answer to these attacks through force when we have to, but we must also do that through solidarity. This is a solidarity that must be demonstrated in its efficiency. We are a free people, a people that is not afraid, that can resist pressures.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In this country, President Obama joined in voicing condolences to the French today, and again promised American support.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    That the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who've been directly impacted. We grieve with you.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And members of the House of Representatives held a moment of silence to honor those killed in France this week.

    I'm Hari Sreenivasan in New York for the PBS NewsHour.