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The Threats And Violence At A Kosher Market In Paris

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We're going to get an update now on one of the two unfolding situations in France. In Paris, there is a standoff at a kosher grocery store. This involves at least one gunman who is holding hostages. Andrew Higgins, of The New York Times, is on the scene. Good morning.

ANDREW HIGGINS: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Tell us where you are and what you're seeing.

HIGGINS: Well, of the actual hostage - not seeing very much. I'm on the Avenue du Paris which is one of the main streets out of Paris to the east, which runs right by this kosher market where a gunman is holding at least five people hostage. Police have sealed off the streets towards the market, so you can't actually see it and that's all you can basically do is listen to the sirens.

MONTAGNE: Lots of police though, I gather, 'cause I too am seeing on television the images of this and, of course, we're reading about it.

HIGGINS: Yeah, there are scores of police down here and a lot of them deployed are just blocking off the entry to the main - the place where the kosher market is. And we don't know how many police are actually in the building or around the building, presumably on the roof, and anti-terrorist forces have been called in. Two different units are down there.

MONTAGNE: And what have you found out about the gunman or anyone who might be with him?

HIGGINS: Well, he's been identified as Amedy Coulibaly, who's 32 years old, and knows the two main suspects of the massacre on Wednesday at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. And he seems to belong to the same group of sort of young jihadists that used to gather in northern Paris about a decade ago and recruited people to go to Iraq. And he's a good friend of Cherif, who is also 32 years old. He's the younger brother of the two who are now in their own hostage-taking situation in the north of Paris near Charles de Gaulle airport.

MONTAGNE: And this idea that this gunman is linked to the two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attacks - where is that coming from?

HIGGINS: Well, police are just saying that he was part of the group that used to gather in the 19th arrondissement of Paris about a decade ago. And that's when Cherif Kouachi, the younger brother, was arrested and sent to jail for terrorist-related crimes, namely sending people to Iraq to fight there. And this group at the time seemed this sort of keystone terrorists and they weren't taken terribly seriously. And we see the consequences of that now because not only the Kouachi brothers, but this other guy who seems to belong to the gang have now taken a number of people hostage in Paris.

MONTAGNE: And what do you know about those hostages? I know you said a moment ago that you couldn't see them, but has there been any sort of sense of them being harmed?

HIGGINS: Well, it's confusing on that point. The police officials said two people had been killed and there were certainly a few - a lot of gunfire sort of around noon. But then the Interior Ministry denied that, saying no one had been killed, so I'm not actually sure what the death toll is or even if there is a death toll.

MONTAGNE: Right, but all, of course, fast-moving and, you know, fog of, probably, events at the moment, but - right?

HIGGINS: Certainly. I mean, it's the fog of (laughter) fog of war - a spastic war at the moment - but I imagine at some point the police will move in if negotiations don't yield any results.

MONTAGNE: Andrew, thank you very much.

HIGGINS: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: Andrew Higgins, of The New York Times, speaking to us from Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.