French police have surrounded a building in a northern town where two Islamist militants suspected of the Charlie Hebdo attack have a hostage. Holed up in a small printing business in Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km (22 miles) from Paris, the gunmen reportedly said they were prepared to die.
Shots were fired during a high-speed car chase earlier on Friday.
Separately, in Paris, a gunman has taken hostages at a kosher supermarket in what appears to be a related attack.
A police source told France’s AFP news agency that five hostages were taken, and there are reports of multiple injuries.
Reports say the gunman in the Porte de Vincennes area is thought to be the same person who shot and killed a policewoman in Paris on Thursday.
Images of heavily armed Swat teams mobilising in the area around the apparent siege were broadcast live.
In the Charlie Hebdo attack, 12 people were shot dead and 11 injured. The suspects, two brothers linked by intelligence officials to militant groups, shouted Islamist slogans during the shooting and then fled Paris in a hijacked car, heading north.
It appears that on Friday they hijacked another car in the town of Montagny-Sainte-Felicite before travelling on to Dammartin.
The car’s owner recognised them as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, the key suspects.
In a televised statement Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed the men being sought on Friday were those wanted for the Charlie Hebdo attack and said they would be “neutralised”.
The suspects have been surrounded in a small printing business named CTD, a source close to the investigation told AFP.
Officials from the town council say pupils from three schools are being evacuated to a nearby gymnasium, where they will be reunited with their parents.
An interior ministry official said there had been no deaths or injuries on Friday, as reported by some media.
Christelle Alleume, who works near CTD in Dammartin, said a round of gunfire had interrupted her morning coffee break.
“We heard shots and we returned very fast because everyone was afraid,” she told French broadcaster iTele. “We had orders to turn off the lights and not approach the windows.”
People in the area say police helicopters began arriving around 08:45 (07:45 GMT) followed by convoys of armed officers. Sharpshooters could be seen taking up position on rooftops.
The security situation has affected flights at the main airport in Paris, which is in the vicinity. Officials at Paris Charles de Gaulle say they have changed landing and take-off patterns for aircraft in the light of the security situation.
Police told AFP that the suspected killer of a policewoman in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge on Thursday had links with the Kouachi brothers.
The police officer had been responding to an early morning traffic accident when she came under fire. Reports say two people close to the chief suspect have been arrested.
It is believed the gunmen were angered by the satirical magazine’s irreverent depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
During the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the attackers are said to have shouted “We are al-Qaeda, Yemen”, an apparent reference to the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula group (AQAP).
In the US, a senior official has told reporters that one of the two brothers alleged to have carried out the attack, Said Kouachi, spent “a few months” training in Yemen with the group.
Said and his younger brother, convicted terrorist Cherif Kouachi, were on a US no-fly list before the attack, a US counter-terrorism official told the New York Times.
France’s main Muslim federations have called on imams at 2,300 French mosques to “condemn the violence and the terrorism with maximum firmness”.-BBC