PARIS/REIMS - Police are hunting three French nationals, including two brothers from the Paris region, after suspected Islamist gunmen killed 12 people at a satirical magazine on Wednesday, a police official and government source said.
The hooded attackers stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly known for lampooning Islam and other religions, in the most deadly militant attack on French soil in decades.
French police staged a huge manhunt for the attackers who escaped by car after shooting dead some of France's top cartoonists as well as two police officers. About 800 soldiers were brought in to shore up security across the capital.
Police issued a document to forces across the region saying the three men were being sought for murder in relation to the Charlie Hebdo attack. The document, reviewed by a Reuters correspondent, named them as Said Kouachi, born in 1980, Cherif Kouachi, born in 1982, and Hamyd Mourad, born in 1996.
The police source said one of them had been identified by his identity card, which had been left in the getaway car.
The Kouachi brothers were from the Paris region while Mourad was from the area of the northeastern city of Reims, the government source told Reuters.
The police source said one of the brothers had previously been tried on terrorism charges.
Cherif Kouachi was charged with criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise in 2005 after he was arrested before leaving for Iraq to join Islamist militants. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008, according to French media.
A police source said anti-terrorism police searching for the suspects had been preparing an operation in Reims, and that there had already been a number of searches at locations across the country as part of the investigation.
A Reuters reporter in Reims saw anti-terrorism police secure a building before a forensics team entered an apartment there while dozens of residents looked on. They did not appear to be preparing a major raid.
A government official told Reuters there had been no arrests.
During the attack, one of the assailants was captured on video outside the building shouting "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Greatest) as shots rang out. Another walked over to a police officer lying wounded on the street and shot him point-blank with an assault rifle before the two calmly climbed into a black car and drove off.
A police union official said there were fears of further attacks, and described the scene in the offices as carnage, with a further four wounded fighting for their lives.
Tens of thousands joined impromptu rallies across France in memory of the victims and to support freedom of expression.