What began 48 hours ago with two gunmen murdering journalists at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has now been turned into a major terrorist crisis in France, with two different hostage-taking unfolding in the greater Paris area.
Following a two-day manhunt, the two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack, were holed up with at least one hostage in a print shop in the small town of Dammartin-en-Goële, northeast of the capital.
At the same time, 40 kilometres to the south, an acquaintance of the brothers took at least five people – some of whom are reported to have been wounded – hostage in a kosher supermarket on the eastern outskirts of Paris.
The second crisis started Thursday morning, when a policewoman, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, was shot dead when she and her patrol partner intervened to the scene of a car crash at an intersection in the southern suburb of Montrouge.
It wasn't immediately if the shooter was about to strike a target in the neighbourhood, but the Yaaguel Yaacov Jewish school is 200 metres north of the shooting scene.
The gunman ran away on foot. He is now believed to be the hostage taker at the kosher grocery.
A police official said that the man declared "You know who I am" after opening fire at the market.
Just like the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the latest incident appeared aimed at creating maximum impact. Police at the scene noted that the gunman targeted the kosher store hours before the Jewish Sabbath when it would be crowded.
The supermarket hostage taker is believed to be a 32-year-old man, Amedy Coulibaly.
Mr. Coulibaly and a 26-year-old woman believed to be his spouse, Hayat Boumeddiene, have been named in a police bulletin as armed, dangerous suspects wanted in connection with the Montrouge killing.
Mr. Coulibaly is reported to be connected with Said and Cherif Kouachi, the two brothers who are the suspected gunmen in the Charlie Hebdo attack.
The three are connected to a radical group known as the Buttes Chaumont network, named after a Paris area where dozens of people were radicalized a decade ago. Around 2004, several from that group left for Iraq to fight American troops.
Other members of the Buttes Chaumont network made headlines in 2010 when French authorities broke up a plot to free a convicted bomber from jail.
Cherif Kouachi and Mr. Coulibaly were seen together in 2010 while visiting Djamel Beghal, the mastermind of the failed prison-break plot.
French media are reporting that Mr. Coulibaly was just released last year after serving a five-year sentence in the jailbreak conspiracy, while Cherif Kouachi was arrested in the same investigation but freed for lack of evidence.
The man they were trying to break out was Algerian Islamist Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002 for a bombing at the Musée d'Orsay metro station in Paris in October 1995 that left around 30 injured.
With reports from Jill Mahoney and Associated Press