Loud explosions and reports of gunfire have been heard outside the Jewish grocery shop in a violent conclusion to the second Paris siege, amid reports the gunman is dead.
The armed gunman, suspected to be the same assailant who who killed a French policewoman on Thursday, has been killed during final moments of the siege, French authorities confirm. French security police used the CCTV inside the store to help them.
An unknown number of hostages, thought to be around five, including children, were being held in Kosher grocery Hyper Cacher off from at Rue Albert Willemetz, a side street off the main Porte de Vincennes boulevard.
The status of these hostages following the explosions and end of the siege remains unclear, although witnesses report seeing ambulances on standby near the scene and images are emerging of groups of the hostages fleeing from the building.
Conflicting reports from Reuters claim that as many as four hostages have died in the conclusion of the siege - none of these are confirmed.
Immediately following the apparent end of the siege, Le Monde has reported that the gunman, thought to be 32-year-old Amedy Coulibaly, has been killed. He reportedly threatened to kill the hostages if police storm the building with the Kouachi brothers inside. The two suspects are also reported to have been killed in the violent conclusion of the siege.
The man, who was reportedly armed with two Kalashnikov rifles, is said to have told police officers: "You know who I am."
Unconfirmed reports claim that two people may have been killed by the gunman, with witnesses claiming that the shooting lasted 20 seconds.
An eyewitness to the Vincennes hostage-taking told Europe 1 radio: “People were buying things when a man came in with a rifle and started shooting in all directions. I ran out. The shooting continued for several seconds.”
Earlier Radio Europe 1 claimed a daughter had received a call from her mother, telling her: "I am in the shop, I love you."
The background of the four individuals named by police has come under increasing scrutiny as details slowly emerge.
Coulibaly's girlfriend Hayat Boumedienne, 26, has also be named by police as a person of interest. It is believed that Ms Boumedienne attended a suspected jihadist training camp in Cantal, a mountainous area of central France.
The status of Ms Boumedienne remains unclear following the conclusion of the siege.
Others present at the camp included Cherif Kouachi, who is one of the suspected gunman in the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre. Both were questioned by French security at the time but released for lack of evidence.
A French newsweekly L'Orbs has claimed that Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi may have met between 2005 and 2006, when both served jail sentences at the notoriously overcrowded Fleury-Mérogis prison, south of Paris.
Details have also emerged that Coulibaly, who reportedly has nine sisters, may have met former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in July 2009, telling Le Parisien: “I’m really pleased. I don’t know what I’ll say to him. I guess I’ll start with hello. Hopefully the president can help me get a job".
Police evacuated everyone from the area, Le Monde reported. Local people said they had heard prolonged gunfire.
Heavily armed police units cordoned off surrounding streets around the incident unfolding at Hyper Cacher (roughly translated as Super Kosher) grocery store, The Independent's John Lichfield reported.
Paris' Mayor Anne Hidalgo wrote on Twitter: “I have learned with horror of the hostage situation that has begun at the Porte de Vincennes, and I am going to the scene immediately.”
The two suspected gunmen of the Charlie Hebdo massacre earlier this week remain holed up inside a print works as French negotiators work to create a dialogue.
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