The Paris prosecutor has denied reports that at least one person had been killed in a shootout preceding a hostage-taking in a town north-east of Paris.
Police have cordoned off the town of Dammartin-en-Goele where the two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo killings had been identified following a massive manhunt in the woodland area nearby.
Earlier, RTL radio said at least one person had died and several were injured in a shoot-out. The Interior Ministry could not immediately confirm whether there were victims.
Five helicopters were seen flying over an industrial zone outside the town, where at least one person was taken hostage.
Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed a police operation was underway in the town, 40 kilometres from the site where police had been hunting the two men on Thursday.
Before night fell on Thursday, officers had focused their search on the woodland village of Corcy, not far from a service station where police sources said the brothers had been seen in ski masks a day after the shootings in Paris.
The fugitive suspects are French-born sons of Algerian-born parents, both in their early 30s, and already under police surveillance.
One was jailed for 18 months for trying to travel to Iraq a decade ago to fight as part of an Islamist cell.
Police said they were “armed and dangerous”.
US and European sources close to the investigation said on Thursday that one of the brothers, Said Kouachi, was in Yemen in 2011 for several months training with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the group’s most active affiliates.
A Yemeni official familiar with the matter said the Yemen government was aware of the possibility of a connection between Said Kouachi and AQAP, and was looking into any possible links.
US government sources said Said Kouachi and his brother Cherif Kouachi were listed in two US security databases, a highly classified database containing information on 1.2 million possible counter-terrorism suspects, called TIDE, and the much smaller no-fly list maintained by the Terrorist Screening Centre, an interagency unit.
US television network ABC reported that the brothers had been listed in the databases for “years”.
Dave Joly, a spokesman for the Terrorist Screening Centre, said he could neither confirm nor deny if the Kouachis were listed in counter-terrorism databases.
This story was originally published on ABC and has been republished with full permission.