A MANHUNT is on for the hooded gunmen who stormed the Paris offices of a satirical magazine known for lampooning radical Islam, killing at least 12 people, including two police officers in the worst militant attack on French soil in decades.
One of the men was captured on video outside the building waving his arms and shouting "Allah!".
After dozens of shots rang out, two assailants were seen calmly leaving the scene. One police officer was seen being shot as he lay wounded.
The government declared the highest state of alert, increasing security at transport hubs, religious sites, media offices and department stores as the search for the assailants got under way.
French media reported that the three men involved were brothers Said (34) and Cherif (32) Kouachi - who were born in Paris' 10th arrondissement - along with Hamyd Mourad (18).
Cherif was reportedly part of an Iraqi jihadi network dismantled in the nearby 19th arrondissement of Paris.
He was sentenced to three years in prison with 18 months suspended in relation to terror charges in May 2008. The brothers are Franco-Algerians who came back from Syria this summer. Hamyd Mourad is of no fixed abode.
Last year, he was reportedly enrolled in a secondary education course in Charleville-Mezieres, around 50 miles from the Champagne capital of Reims, northeastern France.
Police were reportedly hunting for him in Reims last night. His nationality is unknown.
Earlier, police conducted searches in the Paris suburbs of Pantin, in Seine-Saint-Denis, where the assailants were thought to have driven to. They also conducted searches in Genevilliers, northwest of Paris.
Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is known for its satirical attacks on political and religious leaders and has published numerous cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad.
Jihadists online have repeatedly warned that the magazine would pay for its satire.
The last tweet on its account mocked Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant Islamic State, which has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria and called for "lone wolf" attacks on French soil.
President Francois Hollande rushed to the scene of what appeared to be a carefully-planned attack. "An act of indescribable barbarity has just been committed today in Paris," he said.
"Measures have been taken to find those responsible, they will be hunted for as long as it takes to catch them and bring them to justice."
An amateur video broadcast by French television showed two hooded men outside the building. One of them sees a wounded policeman lying on the ground, rushes over to him and shoots him dead at point-blank range with a rifle.
The two then walk over to a black saloon car. One casually picks up a shoe left on the ground, and then they drive off.
In another clip, the men are heard shouting in French: "We have killed Charlie Hebdo. We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad." A witness quoted by 20 Minutes daily newspaper said one of the assailants cried out before entering the car: "Tell the media that it is al Qaeda in Yemen!"
The gunmen fled east towards the Paris suburbs, dumping their car in a residential area, police said. They then hijacked another car before running over a pedestrian and disappearing.
By late afternoon, the police presence in Paris was significantly heavier with armed policeman patrolling around the Grands Magasins department stores in the shopping district and an armed gendarme outside the Arc de Triomphe.
Another 20 people were injured in the attack, including four or five critically. Police union official Contento described the scene inside the offices as "carnage". Ten members of Charlie Hebdo staff died in the brutal onslaught. Sources at the weekly said the dead included co-founder Jean "Cabu" Cabut and editor-in-chief Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier.
"Two black-hooded men entered the building with Kalashnikovs (rifles)," witness Benoit Bringer told TV station iTELE. "A few minutes later we heard lots of shots."
In a video shot from a rooftop near the magazine's offices, a man can be heard screaming "Allah"; then followed the sound of three or four shots.
"I am extremely angry. These are criminals, barbarians. They have sold their soul to hell.
"This is not freedom. This is not Islam and I hope the French will come out united at the end of this," said Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the Drancy mosque in Paris's Seine-Saint-Denis northern suburb.